Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Huffman Urges DOJ to Clarify Stance on Pot Advertising

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 1:57 PM

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North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman is urging the Department of Justice to rebuff the U.S. Postal Service’s requests and publicly state that it won’t prosecute businesses who are mailing advertisements for marijuana but are acting in line with state law.

Huffman joined seven of his colleagues in penning a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging her to “clarify” how the Department of Justice intends to respond to the USPS’ referring newspapers to her office for potential prosecution for violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act. By “clarify,” the members of congress mean publicly state “that DOJ will not prosecute individuals who are placing advertisements for marijuana products in accordance with state law.”

In January, the USPS contacted the Journal and other newspapers throughout the country, informing us that we were breaking federal law by including medical marijuana advertisements in our papers and mailing them to subscribers through the postal service. The issue apparently began in Oregon and Washington where local postmasters threatened to refer newspapers for federal prosecution. That stance was later adopted as an official policy by USPS officials.

In the lawmakers’ letter, they urge Lynch to act in accordance with her office’s 2013 memo stating that prosecuting business acting legally under state medical and recreational laws was not a priority, and with a spending bill passed by Congress that explicitly prohibited the department from spending federal funds to interfere with state marijuana laws. “Congress has made clear its intent that DOJ not interfere with medical marijuana programs,” the members of Congress wrote.

Joining Huffman in signing the letter were Earl Blumenauer ( D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Ted Lieu (D-CA).

See the full letter below, and see our February editorial on the issue here.

March 29, 2016
 
The Hon. Loretta Lynch
Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
 
Dear Attorney General Lynch:
 
We write to request clarification from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on recent policy issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS) regarding mailed advertisements for marijuana products in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or adult use. While the USPS may make determinations on the mailability of certain items, the authority to prosecute individuals and businesses under the Controlled Substances Act or related federal statutes rests entirely with the DOJ. We therefore request that DOJ offer guidance to clearly establish that in accordance with the Department’s August 29, 2013, memorandum titled Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement, and with language in the FY16 Omnibus that bars DOJ from spending funds that interfere with state medical marijuana laws, that DOJ will not prosecute individuals who are placing advertisements for marijuana products in accordance with state law.
 
As you are likely aware, in December the USPS issued national policy determining that marijuana advertisements are non-mailable. The policy also made clear that Postmasters and Managers of Business Mail Entry must send a report on non-mailable items to the Local Inspection Service “and the matter would then be turned over to the responsible law enforcement agencies for investigation as appropriate.” This policy could pose significant harm to small businesses and newspapers that are in compliance with state law, and believe they are compliant with your Department’s guidance.
 
The USPS has made clear their position, but this still leaves uncertainty for businesses, including newspapers, as to how DOJ will react to any information provided by USPS about marijuana advertisements. Clarity for businesses is essential as they work to comply with state law, and as state’s seek to implement their marijuana laws safely and effectively. Through inclusion of language in the FY16 omnibus spending bill barring DOJ from spending funds that interfere with a State’s ability to implement its own medical marijuana laws, Congress has made clear its intent that DOJ not interfere with medical marijuana programs. Additionally, the issue of advertising was not raised as an enforcement priority in the August 2013 guidance relating medical or adult use programs. We therefore ask that you clarify that DOJ will adhere to these laws and policies, and not take enforcement action upon receiving mailability reports submitted by USPS regarding marijuana advertising that is legal under state law.
 
We look forward to your prompt response. Small businesses and newspapers across the country are already making important business decisions as a result of the USPS policy.

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