Back on February 16th, the state of California issued a cease and desist letter to marijuana media company, Weedmaps, asking them to immediately stop promoting and running ads for illegal marijuana businesses. Weedmaps, often considered the marijuana enthusiast version of Yelp, has had a long history of displaying ads for marijuana businesses in the state that are lacking proper licensing and permits thereby breaching local regulations. If the company does not comply with the states order, they will leave themselves open to criminal prosecution as well as potential civil discipline. What exactly those penalties may consist of is not known at this time. Leafly has already removed all unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services from its dispensary finder.
Not surprisingly, the notice sent to Weedmaps was just one of close to a thousand cease and desist letters that have been sent out to improperly or unlicensed marijuana businesses throughout the state as of January first 2018 when cannabis legalization became official.
California’s cannabis czar sent Weedmaps a cease and desist letter, ordering the Irvine company that maps marijuana dispensaries to immediately stop promoting businesses that don’t have state licenses.
“You are aiding and abetting in violations of state cannabis laws,” states the letter from Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
If the company doesn’t immediately drop advertisements for unlicensed businesses, Ajax said Weedmaps could face criminal and civil penalties, including civil fines for each illegal ad.
The letter is the only one that’s been sent to an advertising company, according to bureau spokesman Alex Traverso. But it’s one of more than 900 cease and desist letters his agency has sent to unlicensed marijuana businesses in California since recreational weed sales were allowed to start and licensing requirements kicked in Jan. 1. And Traverso said many of those 900-plus black market shops were discovered on Weedmaps.
Tustin resident Justin Hartfield founded Weedmaps in 2007 with company CEO Doug Francis. The site and its app help visitors find dispensaries and browse their menus, with shops rated much like businesses on Yelp.