After seriously bumming out publishers and pot advertisers in the Northwest, the United States Postal Service is harshing on the national mellow with a sweeping ban on marijuana advertising in all 50 states, declaring any publication containing ads for pot to be “non-mailable” everywhere in the country. The nationwide ban extends a regional ban previously announced by the USPS northwestern district headquartered in Portland, Ore.
In a letter sent to Oregon’s congressional delegation, USPS General Counsel Thomas J. Marshall wrote: “As an entity of the Federal Government, the Postal Service’s obligation is to make mailability determinations in accordance with the requirements of federal law. Based on our review of the pertinent statutory provisions, we have concluded that the advertisements for the sale of marijuana are non-mailable.”
Marshall continued: “Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana remains a Schedule I ‘controlled substance’ whose sale is prohibited. Further, the CSA prohibits persons from placing ‘in any newspaper, magazine, handbill, or other publication, any advertisement knowing that is has the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance.’”
Thus, Marshall concludes: “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.”
Marshall wrote in response to an inquiry from the Oregon congressional delegation questioning whether the USPS had the authority to ban marijuana ads from the mail, and whether it intended to make this a national policy.
The situation still remains a bit muddled, however, because under law employees of the USPS (an independent public corporation chartered at the behest of Congress) can’t determine whether a particular item is non-mailable and remove it from the mail. Instead, they must send a warning to the entity who tried to mail it, whether a person or company, and then inform law enforcement about the item. All of which seems to mean that the post office will still send these ads in the mail for you, but you might get in trouble.
The office of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden responded to the USPS statement: “We are working as a delegation to quickly find the best option to address this agency’s intransigence. We want federal authorities to respect decisions made by law-abiding Oregonians and small business owners in the state. Unfortunately, the outdated federal approach to marijuana as described in the response from the Postal Service undermines and threatens news publications that choose to accept advertising from legal marijuana businesses in Oregon and other states where voters also have freely decided to legalize marijuana.”