Craig’s postmaster confuses Postal Policy regarding cannabis ads and stories
December 21, 2015
Craig's postmaster threatened to stop mailing the city's local newspaper to readers after confusion surrounding the U.S. Postal Service’s policy regarding marijuana advertisements surfaced this past week.
Craig’s postmaster Mary McClellan originally said she would not mail newspapers that have stories or advertisements containing information about cannabis.
"We are not allowed to mail anything with cannabis in it," she said to the Craig Daily Press before a postal attorney advised her otherwise.
The issue was resolved Monday afternoon after lengthy discussions between attorneys, the newspaper, McClellan and the Postal Service.
Colorado Press Association attorney Steven Zansberg, who also represents the Daily Press as a CPA member, contacted USPS attorney Samuel Schmidt in Salt Lake City, who then explained the policy to McClellan.
"He has spoken with Ms. McClellan, and she will not delay or interfere with the delivery of newspapers discussing or advertising marijuana," Zansberg said in an email.
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Questions surrounding marijuana ads and mailings gained national attention after U.S. Postal Service Executive Vice President and General Council Thomas Marshall sent a letter Dec. 15 to U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, clarifying the Postal Service's policy surrounding mailing items with marijuana advertisements.
Though, it's federally illegal to mail newspapers with marijuana ads, local post office workers cannot refuse to mail such items, Marshall said in a letter to Blumenauer, which was copied to U.S. Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan.
"Postmasters and managers of business mail entry are reminded that they are not authorized to decide whether written, printed or graphic matter is — solely because of its content — non-mailable. Further, postmasters and managers of business mail entry are not permitted to deny entry to such tatter or exclude it from the mail," Marshall said in the letter.
Postmasters can, however, report such advertisements to local inspectors for possible criminal law enforcement, which McClellan intends to do, according to Schmidt.
Potential criminal prosecution would be handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and James M. Cole, deputy attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice, issued a memo in 2013 that provided guidelines to the U.S. attorneys about this matter, stating that if it’s legal in the state to sell marijuana products, then such advertisements should be left alone with reasonable discretion.
“No CPA paper need be concerned about losing Second Class mailing status as a result of running marijuana ads,” Zansberg said in a news release last week. “And so long as our U.S. Attorney John Walsh and his staff abide by the Cole memo, which urged restraint in exercising prosecutorial discretion, there is very little chance anyone will be charged criminally for carrying such ads.”
Originally, McClellan, threatened to not mail today's paper if it contained stories or ads talk about cannabis.
"If I were Ms. McClellan I would be careful not to violate a federal criminal statute," Zansberg said, noting that McClellan completely misinterpreted Marshall's instructions.
Federal law states: "Whoever, being a Postal Service officer or employee, improperly detains, delays, or destroys any newspaper, or permits any other person to detain, delay, or destroy the same, or opens, or permits any other person to open, any mail or package of newspapers not directed to the office where he is employed; or Whoever, without authority, opens, or destroys any mail or package of newspapers not directed to him, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."
Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com.Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com.Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com.