California’s head of the Bureau of Cannabis Control Lori Ajax has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Weedmaps directing the Irvine-based internet company that maps cannabis dispensaries to stop advertising unlicensed retailers in the state, according to an Orange County Register report. Ajax said if the company does not immediately remove the ads, it could face criminal and civil penalties, including fines for each ad.
BCC spokesperson Alex Traverso told the Register that the agency had discovered many of the state’s illegal businesses through the site and officials have sent more than 900 cease-and-desist letters to illegal dispensaries.
In a February interview with the Register, Weedmaps President Christopher Beals defended the company’s decision to accept the ads, arguing that the site is “showing the same information that Google and Yelp and Craigslist and 30 other websites are showing.”
“To sort of say, ‘Let’s pretend an illegal market doesn’t exist’ or that people can’t just type ‘dispensary’ into Google and find this information… isn’t really realistic.” – Beals, in a February interview with the Register
In February, Leafly, a Weedmaps competitor, announced that as of Mar. 1 they would no longer accept ads from California’s unlicensed dispensaries.
“The California state government has made clear that only licensed retailers and delivery services may advertise via technology platforms. … Businesses that have already received their state or municipal license and validated their license status with Leafly will not see any changes to their accounts.” – Leafly, in a Feb. 7 press release
Traverso indicated that there was “no immediate action planned” against Weedmaps but that the agency was communicating with the company.