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Weedmaps may face fines, civil penalties for advertising unlicensed cannabis businesses in California

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The chief of California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control sent Weedmaps a cease and desist letter last month, telling the company to stop promoting and listing businesses in the state that do not have licenses.

The company provides cannabis business with menus and map listings in their areas and has been a longtime advertiser for different dispensaries across the country and worldwide.

“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 Weedmaps chooses not to drop advertisements for unlicensed businesses, Ajax said the company could face criminal and civil penalties including civil fines for each illegal advertisement.

The state bureau spokesman Alex Traverso said more than 900 cease and desist letters have been sent from the agency to unlicensed businesses in California since social cannabis sales became legal January 1. Traverso added many of those illegal businesses were found using Weedmaps.

Although Weedmaps has not responded to the recent cease and desist letter, the company’s president didn’t seem like he was open to making changes to who they advertise with back during a February interview.

“The thing is, at the end of the day, we’re an information platform,” Weedmaps president Christopher Beals said. “We’re showing the same information that Google and Yelp and Craigslist and 30 other websites are showing.”

Beals added the states and cities should be responsible for creating the framework to avoid black market demand.

“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, it isn’t really realistic,” he said.

Weedmaps competition, Leafly, has said it wasn’t going to advertise illegal dispensaries starting March 1.

“The California state government has made clear that only licensed retailers and delivery services may advertise via technology platforms,” Leafly’s press release stated.

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Weedmaps may face fines, civil penalties for advertising unlicensed cannabis businesses in California