Weedmaps says it will ban advertisements from unlicensed cannabis sellers. Legal sellers applaud – Los Angeles Times


Weedmaps has been the bane of licensed dispensary owners in California’s fledgling marijuana market.

The site, which lists nearby dispensaries and marijuana delivery services , has faced criticism for helping unpermitted dispensaries flourish as the state has struggled to permit businesses and fold illegal operators into its budding legal industry. California cannabis regulatory agencies have attempted to crack down on the company in the past, with little success. But now, Weedmaps says it will end that practice, and lawmakers and licensed dispensary owners are cautiously optimistic.

On its Yelp-like platform , dispensaries can put up menus, photos and other information, and customers can write comments and ratings. In areas where the marijuana market is saturated, Weedmaps charges for higher placements in listings.

Licensed owners have expressed frustration that the website amplifies the presence of unlicensed cannabis sellers, whose skirting of state and local taxes lets them undercut legal operators. Without Weedmaps or its competitors, unlicensed sellers would have to rely on word-of-mouth to bring customers through their doors. (One competitor, Leafly, said in early 2018 it would bar unlicensed operators.)

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“Without the voice that Weedmaps gives, 80% of [illegal dispensaries] would disappear, or would do a fraction of the business,” said Carlos De La Torre, owner of the Cornerstone Research Collective in Eagle Rock.

In February 2018, the Bureau of Cannabis Control sent Weedmaps a cease and desist letter telling the company it was breaking state law by carrying ads from unlicensed businesses.

Weedmaps has evaded these orders, saying it is protected under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which gives platforms like Facebook and YouTube safe harbor from being held liable for the content their users post.

Section 230 enabled the rapid growth of some of the biggest tech companies, most of which host third party content. The

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