In this Oct. 26, 2011 file photo, the logo of the online reviews website Yelp is shown in neon on a wall at the company's Manhattan offices in New York. (Kathy Willens, AP file)

Yelp terminates Denver massage studio’s ad contract over use of ‘THC’

Review site Yelp terminated an advertising agreement with a Denver massage studio last week because the business’ website includes information about its popular “Mile High Massage” — a service that utilizes lotions infused with THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

Yelp also reclassified the business, LoDo Massage & Private Yoga Studio, as a “cannabis clinic” — a designation normally used for recreational pot shops and medical marijuana dispensaries — “because they offer massages with THC-infused lotion,” a Yelp spokesperson said this week.

“We’ve never pushed ourselves as a weed-driven business whatsoever,” said Ed Rich, owner of LoDo Massage. “We simply use Apothecanna (THC-infused lotions) because we feel it does the best job to alleviate pain during the massage. It doesn’t go into the bloodstream. We don’t up-charge for it. We don’t sell the bottles. Nothing has changed since (The Cannabist) did that story two years ago.”

Marijuana-infused topicals, lotions included, don’t get users stoned in the same way smoking, eating or vaporizing cannabis would.

Yelp’s advertising decision doesn’t impact LoDo Massage’s free business listing on the site. But until LoDo Massage removes that still-controversial acronym for tetrahydrocannabinol from its Yelp listing and its website, the business will not be allowed to advertise on Yelp — which place’s a business’ ad above the organic search results in that category.

“Yelp is a publicly traded and federally regulated company, and as such we’re not comfortable taking advertising revenue from businesses that remain illegal under federal law,” the Yelp spokesperson said. “We don’t currently show any advertising for cannabis-related businesses in the U.S. The business owner was notified of this policy via email when Yelp terminated their advertising contract.”

One of the best cannabis clinics in Denver, according to review site Yelp, is a massage studio that doesn't sell any marijuana. (
One of the best cannabis clinics in Denver, according to review site Yelp, is a massage studio that doesn’t sell any marijuana. (

LoDo Massage owner Rich still doesn’t understand why his massage studio is listed as a cannabis clinic. Currently the Yelp page for “Best Cannabis Clinics in Denver” lists LoDo Massage alongside Dank, Kind Love, Botanico and Alternative Medicine on Capitol Hill — all marijuana shops.

“Yelp reclassified us as a dispensary under their terms,” Rich said, “and because of that we’re no longer able to buy advertising — and the paid advertising from Yelp was huge for our business.”

Yelp’s reponse: “LoDo Massage was assigned as a Cannabis Clinic because they offer massages with THC-infused lotion … For now, Yelp categorizes businesses at a macro level to represent the national business landscape. Over time we may add or remove categories as that landscape changes.”

LoDo Massage hasn’t yet noticed a downturn in business, Rich said. The studio was “completely sold out on Saturday and Sunday, even during the Broncos game, which is highly unusual.”