California Bureau of Cannabis Control Issues Cease-and-Desist, Weedmaps Replies | Marijuana

California Bureau of Cannabis Control Issues Cease-and-Desist, Weedmaps Replies


Last week, it was reported that the California Bureau of Cannabis Control issued a cease-and-desist to Weedmaps,’s parent company, on the grounds that the website and smartphone application advertises cannabis dispensaries and delivery services that are unlicensed by the state.

Weedmaps responded to the notice from bureau chief Lori Ajax on Monday, stressing the importance of lifting local bans and pointing out that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that removes the liability of a website for the actions of its users, acts as its shield, as reported by Ars Technica.

The company’s CEO Doug Francis and president Chris Beals wrote a letter to Ajax pointing out that the business doesn’t fall under the Bureau’s jurisdiction.

“Weedmaps is a technology company and an interactive computer service which is subject to certain federally preemptive protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and is also not a Licensee subject to the Bureau’s purview,” the letter stated, citing the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) and California regulations.

Bureau chief Ajax contends that Weedmaps is “engaging in activity that violates state cannabis laws” when it allows illegal businesses to advertise to the public. The bureau compared Weedmaps listings to license records on file with the state to determine whether the platform was violating California cannabis law.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), a valid state license from a state licensing authority is required to legally operate a commercial cannabis business within the State of California. This includes the retail sale and delivery of cannabis and cannabis products. Your website contains advertisements from persons offering cannabis and cannabis products for sale that are not licensed to conduct commercial cannabis activity; therefore, you are aiding and abetting in violations of state cannabis laws.

Bureau chief Ajax received complaints from licensed facilities who were unhappy with the leg-up unlicensed shops enjoy because they don’t pay taxes or regulatory fees, and those complaints prompted the letter to Weedmaps.

“The legal businesses in the regulated commercial cannabis industry face higher costs than those who do not comply with the law,” Ajax said. “Unlicensed businesses are openly advertising on technology platforms and print media. Further, unlicensed activity puts the public at risk as the health and safety provisions, such as testing, are not in place.”

Beals told the Los Angeles Times, “We were under the impression that the bureau would focus on getting people licensed before they moved on toward attempting enforcement.”

In their response, Weedmaps pointed to widespread ignorance of voter will by local governments across the state for the unlicensed status of most dispensaries and deliveries.

“Nearly 85% of California cities and counties do not permit licensure for cannabis business operators. In many cases, the operators who have not had the opportunity to obtain licensure are the only ones providing access for medical patients in large parts of the state, and this is only compounded by the fact that local governments are continuing to place restrictions on home cultivation that run contrary to California law.”

Though marijuana officially became legal in California on January 1, the language of the state’s recreational cannabis laws places the responsibility of implementing regulatory framework on local bodies of government. The state is currently operating under emergency regulations that have resulted in 85 percent of cities and towns in the state not permitting cannabis business licenses to be issued.

Cover image courtesy of Allie Beckett


This post was updated to include more specific information about Section 230.

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Used to write about music for XXL, Elevator, Complex, Genius, and a few other outlets. Follow @LongLiveTheDuke on Twitter if you'd like to read way fewer words by me.


  1. Lawrence Goodwin on

    I posted these comments on a sister website, and repeat here (minus a blatant error): “In every state of our fair land, the 81-year federal prohibition of ‘marihuana’ has created countless headaches. Add yet another, Weedmaps v. California state regulators, to the long list of them.

    It seems, for now, that Weedmaps should just cooperate with the state regulators. Why proceed on such flimsy legal grounds? Many of those current storefronts cited by the owners probably won’t be there long, after receiving their own notices to cease operations.

    Weedmaps people should count their blessings and work to preserve the vital role they play in popularizing legal cannabis. I live in the most repressive, weed-hating state of New York, where companies like that are barely allowed to exist. I yearn for a day when New York adults can go online and find the nearest legal dispensary of cannabis products. What a green dream!

  2. Thanks to Weedmaps for recognizing one of the many troubles Prop 64 has created in California.

    State of California and mega marijuana are certainly joining forces in opposition to small-scale cannabis cottage industry. Effectively, a wedge (divide and conquer) is being driven into the Heritage cannabis cultivators. Legality has countless numbers of investors who have ZERO flesh in the game. They pursue easy money.

    California’s Heritage growers can’t afford to become ‘legal’ when the bidding wars are designed to favor the cash-rich who wish to develop top-of-the-foodchain corporate operations.

    We’re being squashed by state and corporate controllers.

    • Charles E. Elkins on

      Exactly. On everything you said. But giving accolades to Weedmaps.
      Take their social site. Dealing goes on continuously. I reported to WM to no avail. Porno was on for the longest time. A bad review on a store not being compliant or selling Mexican weed. I know my cannabis. Some storefronts selling butane laced extracts, not checking for recommendations. Right on legit shops and the CBCC. To protect Weedmaps is the fastest way to ruin a market that good people are seriously complying. Go after the bad boys. Cheaters, tax leaders, bait and switch delivery services and high prices cannabis. The States really screwingbthat up. Allowing the tax leaders to keep going. They said they compared lists. That means there’s a list of compliant and non-compliant. So hey greedy Weedmaps that does not care what we invest obviously. You make absolutely no sense in your argument. It’s not to hard to find a shop. Don’t even need Weedmaps and the infamous mappers. LMAO mappers?

  3. It’s sad to see the ignorance of the people who have taken the rains. From state representatives,city counsel,law enforcement.and attorneys it runs the
    gamete. Everyone wants a piece of the pie.
    Sadly it has become a ponsie of sorts. The counsel does favors , law enforcement gets paid, and it’s an Attorny’s
    Dream . Meanwhile the criminal element laughs, all the while cashing in on the ignorance.
    This is why city leaders have no biusness making biusness decisions. Lack of experience and personal agendas seem to rule the day. Years from now when the industry has evolved and is corporate operated all there will be is the stories. It is like the early .com days and E Toys.
    When do we let the biusness leaders lead and the city leaders follow.
    Try to focus on what you were elected to do.
    Not force your personal agendas and ignorance

  4. Please don’t stop listing non-compliant dispensaries. Some of us legitimate medical cannabis patients — particularly seniors and others on fixed incomes — cannot afford our meds now that prices have been jacked up to cover new fees, and must depend on finding other sources that are more affordable.

    • I to am an older strictly medical marijuana user. I also applaud weedmaps for using their resources to “fight the man”. It is obvious to even me “a little old lady from Orange”that big business cannabis is wrecking my ability to afford my MEDICINE! Medicine the illegal cottage industry taught me how to use in place of deadly narcotics! I can not afford the new outrageous marijuana product prices! Big business cannabis doesn’t need to enrich themselves off of my suffering any more than i think big Pharma should! In this time of mass opioid abuse in our community’s, people die everyday because of the ignorance of the system and the need for greed in our country.
      What about those of us who have no need for recreational marijuana? I am all for profits. This industry is pure greed! I appreciate weedmaps recognizing people like me, still need an affordable way to obtain our medicine! Thanks to how very screwed up some probably smart people have made the climate in California with”legal cannabis operations” gauging the pocket books of sick seniors, I’ve had to return to illegal shops to afford my medicine! What about us? The straight up mmj patient? Where are we supposed to go to get affordable care? Back to BIG PHARMA? BIG BUSINESS CANNABIS DOESN’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT US!

  5. this phase between cannabis illegality and ignorance – including human brain endocannabinoid system, cbds produced by brain and body, together with natural plant based cbd’s from cannabis sativa – and McCannabis,, must allow for precious strains grown and evolved by ‘connoiseur’ and enthusiast cannabis growers..

    blackmarkets have created high thc strains for psychotropic ‘stoned’ effects, for profits, without concern for wonderful potential and real therapeutic effects of other cbd’s in natural cannabis.. holding a ‘license’ based on economic and related factors is no guarantee of intent or even understanding of this god given herbs potentials as real human medicine including for serious diseases and disorders of humanity..

    with legal licensed dispensaries banned in many local areas [due to ignorance], it comes down to blackmarket criminal drug dealers or, grey market specialist growers..
    in this transition period, one primary objective is transitioning away from, blackmarket criminal control.. thus specialist or grey growers/suppliers should be encouraged, as one alternative source for medical cannabis.. patients first..

    one argument for legal cannabis has been the rational concern over pesticide poisoning by mass grown blackmarket marijuana operations who couldnt care less..
    arguments that grey sourced cannabis isnt officially tested, miss the point that blackmarket criminal cannabis will not be, tested..

    if you or your child have epilepsy or some other disease or disorder then you will try to obtain life saving cannabis from wherever you can get it.. license or not..
    small scale enthusiast growers are less likely to deliberately use pesticides or other poisons in their cannabis grows.. most take some sort of pride in creating and growing top quality cannabis, regardless of specific markets..

    there will always be those who slip past regulations deliberately..
    this is not the time for targetting the easily accessible growers who promote or advertise their wares.. common sense should prevail, at least for the time being, while workable general efficiency becomes the norm in this young industry..

  6. The one thing I was hoping for was more testing of all cannabis strains. I thought I heard something that the State of California was going to require this after the law was passed. However, as you look at all the medical and recreational sites on Weedmaps and other cannabis websites there is no mention of any THC or CBD content in any strains that are presented. I would think this very important aspect of the cannabis industry is so important due to the varying concentrations of marijuana constituents present in each strain. By not revealing this information, how can you make an informed decision about what your purchasing? The numbers are more revealing that the salesperson since the information provided is purely subjective and by conjecture. The data by testing each strain can reveal a plethora of information that for me is very important and probably for others too. From a scientific viewpoint, the concentration of THC CBD etc speaks for itself rather than by self-reporting a subjective experience which may be different from one individual to another.

    • Roger I’ll tell you a short but old true story.
      As was usual, I took some very high quality weed to my local cannabis analyst in order to certify my weed as perfect for consumption. The numbers were good, no pesticide, no mold, just fine. After receiving my print-out I thanked the lab owner for testing my weed. He chewed my ass, he said, I scientifically analyse cannabis…if you want to test it, I’ll twist up a doob and test it.

      Humans test cannabis according to personal feelings. The numbers are too easy to rig.

  7. Adam Laughlin on

    The City of Berkely recently enacted a bill whereby they have exempted city officials from obligation to enforce federal US laws, for the very reason they were sick and tired of being bullied on pot issues.

    The State of California can’t condone that, then turn around and play the same card on you, or anyone else. It’s the most absolute hypocrisy.

  8. Yes, let’s all blame Weedmaps, Weedmaps is the devil…. I heard this once before, lemme see if I remember it correctly, oh yeah that’s right, it’s Obama’s fault, yep, that darn Obama… I dunno who said Weedmaps needs to comply, that they have no argument, or protecting Weedmaps is the fastest way to ruin the market? You sound like an effing idiot. Why don’t you people in Califonia bitch and complain to all the ass hats who made these regulations you people don’t like, instead let’s blame Weedmaps, yeah, that’s an idea, if I can’t burn Frankenstein I’ll just stab the next to me on the face with my pitchfork just because I have nothing better to do now… Here’s an idea instead, when in doubt, blame Trump….. or was it blame Obama? Oh boohoo who am I gonna blame other than the ones who made these laws, darn it, if there was only someone like Weedmaps to pick on… Dumbasses

  9. Weedmaps censors their reviews and allows the bussiness’ to moderate their own reviews. This results in a very unbalanced picture of what the dispensaries are actually like. Ive left many very honest reviews and the ones that are on the critical side get deleted every time. I hope weed maps goes goes down.

  10. Alison Maine on

    Thanks to Weedmaps for having the balls to stand up for what is right and legal. Unlike submissive competitors like Leafly.

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