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California marijuana retailers want Gavin Newsom to punish Weedmaps with fines

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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.
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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom should use all the legal muscle at his disposal to crack down on Weedmaps, the Irvine-based website that helps people find medical and recreational marijuana, according to a letter sent to the governor by a cannabis industry trade group.

Weedmaps, which is used by both licensed and non-licensed cannabis businesses, recently announced efforts to prevent non-licensed businesses from advertising on the site by requiring a license number.

According to a company statement released Wednesday, Weedmaps has now implemented that policy “and is beginning to notify existing California-based advertisers that they must enter their state license number on their account.”

“While these policy changes will only have a symbolic impact on the size of California’s unlicensed market without more licensing opportunities and other large listing platforms following suit, we want to continue to lead by example,” Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals said in prepared remarks.

But that’s too little, too late, argues the United Cannabis Business Association in a letter to Newsom.

The industry group urged the governor and Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Lori Ajax to use newly available legal tools to leverage a $30,000-a-day fine for every violation on Weedmaps’ site, retroactive to July 1. That would add up to $85 million a day, the letter alleged.

“The severity of this situation cannot be underscored,” wrote association President Jerred Kiloh. “We know too well the dangers of the unlicensed and unregulated market.”

Weedmaps played host to 3,757 active dispensaries and delivery services in the Golden State, of which just 922 “have a potential license listed,” according to an audit that the licensed marijuana industry group conducted.

“This means, using Weedmaps, Californians are almost three times more likely to shop at an unlicensed retailer than a licensed one,” Kiloh wrote.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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