Lawmakers Question Postal Service About Marijuana Ad Threats to Newspapers | Marijuana

Lawmakers Question Postal Service About Marijuana Ad Threats to Newspapers


A group of members of Congress is demanding the U.S. Postal Service explain a memo it recently issued warning newspapers not to mail any publications containing advertisements for marijuana.

“It appears a clarification of USPS policy is needed for state-legal marijuana businesses who seek to mail advertisements, as well as newspapers or periodicals that may run ads from marijuana businesses and who rely on the Postal Service to distribute their publications,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter on Thursday.

Signing on are U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici. All four Oregon Democrats have sponsored cannabis law reform legislation this year.

“Small businesses and community newspapers rely on advertising to be successful, and our interest is to ensure that these businesses have a clear understanding” of when and how USPS intends to punish publishers who print and mail cannabis ads, says the letter, which is addressed to Postmaster General Megan Brennan.

The USPS memo in question, dated November 27, says that it is illegal to “place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance.”

The one-page document was prepared by the Postal Service’s Portland District office and was reportedly delivered to a number of news organizations in Oregon, where legal recreational marijuana sales began two months ago.

“Regardless of how you feel about our failed prohibition of marijuana, every American should agree that the U.S. Postal Service should not be censoring what is or is not published in newspapers,” Blumenauer, who has led House efforts to allow medical cannabis access for military veterans, told via email.

The USPS memo isn’t the first time federal authorities have levied threats against news organizations for working with marijuana providers. In 2011 a federal prosecutor in California issued a warning to media outlets over marijuana ads, though never followed through by brining charges or seizing assets.

The new document “seems to prohibit mailers that USPS had previously allowed,” the members of Congress wrote to Brennan. “In order to ensure both the integrity of the USPS and the many businesses that this policy impacts in Oregon, an explanation of how or why the decision to restrict all advertising for marijuana products and businesses outlined in the document would be helpful.”

The lawmakers say they want the postmaster general to answer several questions, such as whether USPS intends the memo to have legal effect in all 50 states. “If not, is it customary for individual districts to create their own policies that may contradict how other districts are operating?” they ask. “What discretion does a regional postmaster have in enforcing or implementing these policies, specifically in states where marijuana is legal?”

They also invoke a Congressionally-approved budget rider that prevents the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. “DEA would arguably not be able to enforce polices regarding the in-state mailing of advertisements for state-legal medical marijuana products,” the letter reads. “If this is a policy with legal effect in all 50 states, then why is the USPS helping to uphold laws in medical marijuana state that cannot be enforced by the DEA per the appropriations language?”

The letter ends with an ominous question possibly intended to uncover evidence the Department of Justice isn’t abiding by Congress’s medical marijuana interference ban.  “Did the USPS cooperate with anyone at DEA or DOJ in establishing this policy? If so, please detail the nature of this cooperation.”

The Postal Service has not yet commented on the lawmakers’ letter or on the memo itself.

Read the full letter from the members of Congress below.

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About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. Old drug wariors never die they just spew the drek they consumed while terrorising the american people with the excuse of protecting us from ourselves.

  2. The postal service is responding to the never ending whining and complaining of prohibitionist. Newspapers are about as relevant as chimney sweeps and mule skinners. As we transition to an electronic economy, most of them are not going to make the cut to digital. So for the 3 people left in America who get a newspaper mailed to them, this is happening. In my city the papers still have their own delivery service. This is another example of why the worst Congress in US history needs to be removed. Federal legislation to at least catch up with states in long overdue. Congress has 5 days to come up with a spending plan before the government shuts down. All the bills needed are already submitted. It just seems impossible for the majority of Congress to take their job seriously. Obama on the other hand isn’t going to do anything. He’s so sensitive about using the Executive Order to move Congress that they don’t even respect him anymore. Even those who disagree, would prefer to see him do his job and get Congress moving. And give them their damn pipeline if that’s all they want. Just end the federal prohibition of the cannabis plant and remove it from the Schedule. The bills are on the table and the majority of the American people support it.

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