Pubdate: Tue, 13 Mar 2018
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Brad Branan


A popular marijuana website has told the state's cannabis czar that
she lacks the authority to make the company stop running
advertisements for unlicensed pot retailers.

In a letter sent Monday to Lori Ajax of the Bureau of Cannabis
Control, Doug Francis and Chris Beals of said the company
is not licensed by the bureau and therefore not subject to its

They also said Weedmaps is protected from such action because the
company is an "interactive computer service" covered under the federal
Communications Decency Act. The law states that such a service shall
not be treated as the publisher of information provided by a third

The CDA is seen as providing legal protection for Facebook, Twitter
and other Silicon Valley giants that rely on consumer-generated
content. The protection clause cited by Weedmaps has been successfully
used a legal shield by companies facing criminal prosecution,
including, a classified advertising site that has
contained sex ads.

The letter was sent in response to Ajax's request last month that
Weedmaps stop allowing unlicensed retailers to advertise on the
website, which serves as something similar to Yelp for cannabis,
providing listings of dispensaries, delivery services and doctors who
make recommendations for marijuana.

Weedmaps charges cannabis companies anywhere from hundreds to
thousands of dollars each month to advertise on its site.

Ajax told Weedmaps to stop "engaging in activity that violates state
cannabis laws" by advertising unlicensed retailers and by failing to
publish license numbers for legal and illegal retailers.

Hundreds of dispensaries and delivery services advertise on Weedmaps
in California, far more than the number of companies licensed by the
Bureau of Cannabis Control.

Weedmaps' response to Ajax places the responsibility for having a
license on the companies that use Weedmaps, saying "any groups that
place information on our site represent and warrant that they are in
compliance with local law."

The letter goes on to say the company believes many of the unlicensed
businesses are protected under state law until next January because
they are cannabis cooperatives. Under the state's old medical
marijuana laws, cooperatives were non-profit entities created solely
to provide cannabis to members. State law eliminates the status of
cooperatives under a sunset clause.

Ajax was not available for comment Monday afternoon. However, Joe
Devlin, Sacramento's chief of cannabis policy and enforcement, has
said that at least part of Weedmaps' argument isn't valid because the
illegal retailers on Weedmaps are not nonprofit, as evidenced by the
fact that they are advertising on the site.

Weedmaps' spokesman Carl Fillichio did not respond to requests for

In its three-page letter to Ajax, Francis and Beals focus on what they
described as problems hindering retailers from becoming licensed.
Saying that "native California licensees operate under a regulatory
landscape that is so blurry it stifles investment," the executives
complain about high tax rates, among other things.

About 85 percent of the state does not allow commercial marijuana
sales because of local control provisions in the 2016 legalization law
approved by voters.
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MAP posted-by: Matt