A localized dispute over marijuana advertising has escalated into a national issue that could negatively impact well-read industry publications like High Times.
Lawmakers requested clarification from the United States Postal Service after a local district of the service in Oregon warned newspapers they can't mail issues containing ads for marijuana.
USPS has responded with a sweeping national policy banning the mailing of all publications that contain advertisements for marijuana.
Associated Press quoted the memo, written by Thomas Marshall, executive vice president and general counsel of the Postal Service.
"Advertisements for the sale of marijuana are non-mailable. These provisions express Congress's judgment that the mail should not be used as a means of transmitting advertisements for the sale of marijuana, even if that sale is allowed under state law."
The Denver Post quotes USPS spokesperson John Friess saying individual carriers and local officials will not decide themselves if mail is allowable under the policy.
"Per USPS policy based on the existing federal statute, local postal officials have been advised not to decide whether written, printed or graphic matter is — solely because of its content — non-mailable."
New Policy Could Threaten Publications
Associated Press spoke to Laurie Hieb, executive director of The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
This national policy from the USPS definitely prevents some of our members advertising opportunities," but she added, "this is new advertising and none of them currently rely on it to stay in business."
In addition, many publishers, even in legal states, already have a policy in place prohibiting marijuana advertising in publications.
What isn't clear, is the effect this new national policy could have on those publications who rely on postal distribution for the bulk of their readership. This would include the major print publications covering cannabis like Skunk, Dope, and the grandfather of cannabis publications, High Times.
In an early story on this subject, High Times argued that the policy was specific to those ads directly selling cannabis to the consumer.
[I]t is important to consider that the Controlled Substances Act does not ban all marijuana-related advertising. In fact, it specifies, "The term "advertisement" does not include material which merely advocates the use of a similar material, which advocates a position or practice, and does not attempt to propose or facilitate an actual transaction in a Schedule I controlled substance."