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Weed Ads Piss Off Prudish Postal Service

Some readers call us Eugene Weedly thanks to our pot ads, so it’s no surprise EW has gotten calls from other media wondering if a recent U.S. Postal Service (USPS) notice about pot advertisements will affect the paper. 

On Nov. 27, the Portland district of the USPS gave the Chinook Observer, a small coastal newspaper in Longview, Washington, a warning that if a “mailpiece” contains ads for marijuana, it is “nonmailable.” The Observer is published by EO Media Group, which also publishes papers in Oregon. 

The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) was notified of the issue and sent a warning out to its members and associate members, including EW, saying it “strongly discourages members who use the U.S. Postal Service as their method of delivery from running any type of marijuana advertising.” 

Editor Ted Taylor says EW only has 17 paid subscriptions and another dozen or so that go to other newspapers and libraries, so if the USPS “requires us to stop mailing the paper, it’s not a big issue for us.”

The Oregonian, which has also taken pot ads, said in a recent article that its mail subscribers are a “fraction of the overall subscribers.” Many small rural papers, however, are largely mailed, and those papers might be more severely affected.

Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation weighed in on the issue, sending a letter to the U.S. postmaster general, saying, “Small businesses and community newspapers rely on advertising to be successful,” and the politicians seek a clear understanding of the Postal Service policies so the businesses don’t violate the law.

Sens. Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer ask: Is the policy being enforced in all 50 states? What discretion does a regional postmaster have? What authority does the USPS have to regulate the advertising of legal marijuana, if the ads aren’t promising to mail any marijuana? How will it enforce the rule when Congress prohibited the U.S. Department of Justice from spending money prosecuting federal marijuana crimes in states with legal weed?

Finally, they ask if the USPS cooperated “with anyone at DEA or DOJ in establishing this policy?” and if it did, then “please detail the nature of the cooperation.”

Wyden’s office says it is waiting on a response.

Taylor points out that there are many unresolved issues in federal and state law when it comes to marijuana. He says a bigger issue when it comes to legal pot is “the difficulty these new businesses have in dealing with federal banking regulations,” something he hopes to see resolved on the federal level.