The United States Postal Service released an announcement that newspapers in half of the states are violating the law if they mail publications containing marijuana ads. Despite many states legalizing the use of marijuana, it is still illegal to mail materials containing promotions under federal law.

Up to date, a total of 23 states and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. A number of states decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis or marijuana.

The federal law, released [PDF] by postal officials on Nov. 27, states that if a mail piece contains an advertisement for marijuana, it is deemed non-mailable. Though marijuana is advertised and sold legally for recreational and medical purposes in some states, it is still considered illegal under the law of the United States.      

The memo sent by the U.S. Postal Office caused confusion especially in Portland, Oregon where local newspapers advertised recreational and medical marijuana. Despite Oregon voters legalizing medical marijuana in 1998 and recreational marijuana in 2014, the marijuana plant is still illegal in federal level. It is listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act.

"Based on our review of the (law), we have concluded that advertisements for the sale of marijuana are non-mailable," wrote Thomas Marshall, USPS general counsel and executive vice president.

"These provisions express Congress's judgment that the mail should not be used as a means of transmitting advertisements for the sale of marijuana, even if that sale is allowed under state law," he added.

Even though the new provision says mailers with advertisements for marijuana are considered illegal, the agency has no authority to stop the mailers. The agency will send a report to the local U.S. Postal Infection Service and law enforcement agencies.

The advertising ban prompted a strong rebuke from Democrats who are among the strongest marijuana supporters in the Congress. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley wrote a letter accusing the U.S. Postal Office of disregarding the votes aimed to legalize pot.

"We are working as a delegation to quickly find the best option to address this agency's intransigence," they wrote in the letter.

"Unfortunately, the outdated federal approach to marijuana as described in the response from the Postal Service undermines and threatens news publications that choose to accept advertising from legal marijuana businesses in Oregon and other states where voters also have freely decided to legalize marijuana," they added.

Marijuana has been showing potency in treating diseases like seizures, cancer, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis. Marijuana contains two potent chemicals, chemical cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is marijuana's main mind-altering ingredient while CBD is used to treat conditions such as childhood epilepsy.

THC reduces nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy and increases appetite in patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It decreases pain, muscle control difficulties, and inflammation.

CBD, meanwhile, helps control epileptic seizures, reduces pain and aids in mental illness treatment.

Photo: Pablo Evans | Flickr

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