California Weed

Weedmaps going strictly legal: California pot website cracks down on black market ads

A website that helps people find medical and recreational marijuana is taking steps to prevent black market operators from advertising on its platform.

Irvine-based Weedmaps, which gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to back the 2016 initiative that legalized recreational cannabis in California, plans to require its advertisers to provide a state-issued license number on their listings.

It’s characterizing its decision as an effort to support licensed businesses that compete with unregulated and un-taxed dealers.

The announcement that Weedmaps plans on “restricting the use of its point of sale, online orders, delivery logistics, and wholesale exchange software-as-a-service” to only licensed retailers came in a news release highlighting the company’s plan to help cannabis retailers “disproportionately affected by the failed ‘War on Drugs.’”

“For too long, unjust laws and regulations have crippled small-business owners who want to make an honest living and provide safe, legal cannabis products to medical patients and adult use consumers,” Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals said in a statement. “We hope to give a leg up to entrepreneurs that need and deserve support.”

The United Cannabis Business Association, a trade group representing licensed cannabis retailers in California, celebrated Weedmaps’ decision. Licensed cannabis retailers have complained they’re at a disadvantage in competing with unlicensed, un-taxed dealers in the state.

“This action demonstrates that our efforts to curtail the dangerous operations of the unlicensed cannabis market are working and that there is a clear and pressing need to tackle this threat head-on,” said association President Jerred Kiloh in prepared remarks.

The association is a co-sponsor on a California bill that would require any advertisement for cannabis products to contain a license number, with failure to comply punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 a day per violation.

That bill also would require platforms that allow advertisements, including Weedmaps, to publish a disclaimer on that unlicensed products are illegal in California “and consumers who purchase cannabis products from unlicensed entities do so at their own risk.”

Weedmaps has not yet set a timetable for when the license number will be required.

“As it pertains to retail licensing and the new requirements that will be implemented to advertise on our platform, we will have more to share in the weeks ahead,” a spokesman said in a statement.

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