The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association forwarded an email with a warning to its 100+ members, indicating that it is illegal to use the United States Postal Service (USPS) to deliver newspapers that contain cannabis advertisements.
The notification from the USPS, an independent agency of the United States federal government, states:
“If a mailpiece contains an advertisement for marijuana, that mailpiece is nonmailable.”
It is unclear why Oregon newspapers are being targeted. Laura Hieb, executive director of ONPA, reported that her colleagues in Colorado have not received similar notices. In her email to Oregon newspaper executives, Hieb wrote:
“It is against the law. Unfortunately, ONPA cannot do anything about this.”
In her email, Hieb also wrote that the ONPA “strongly discourages” Oregon newspapers that rely on the U.S. mail for delivery from accepting “any type of marijuana advertising.”
As a result of the email, Hieb has been receiving many calls regarding the federal advisory, which she says, “has created more confusion than clarity.”
The federal advisory letter refers to marijuana’s Schedule I status, stating that it is “unlawful 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.”
An attorney for the ONPA, Jack Orchard, has referred to the warning as “an interesting political document.” The notification seems to have originated from a postal office based in Portland, rather than a national office within the postal service.
Continues Orchard, “Why now? You can say what you want to say about recreational marijuana and the liberalization of marijuana laws in Oregon, but medical marijuana is in widespread use throughout the country and certainly has been part of the Oregon landscape for a long time. The timing of this lends a kind of fascinating political edge to this.”
Newspaper executives have reached out to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) for guidance on what triggered the notification. Nicole L’Esperance, a spokeswoman for Blumenauer, stated that both politicians are “in discussions with the postal service to seek clarification of what appears to be an outdated interpretation that is understandably puzzling to law-abiding Oregonians and small business owners in the state” and that they, “expect an explanation as soon as possible” from the postal service.
Like Colorado and Oregon, Washington State has both recreational and medical cannabis laws. Since 1998, Washington newspapers have been publishing advertising for medical cannabis, according to Marcia Van Dyke, executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.
“Many of our newspapers have been running these ads for a while now in accordance with Washington state law,”
Can Dyke stated. None of them have never received such a notice from any members of the United States Postal Service.