Updated Dec. 18, 2015 at 10:17 a.m.
It is illegal to mail newspapers or other materials that contain advertising for marijuana products, but local postal officials can’t refuse to accept such mail, the Postal Service said.
Postal officials, however, can report the mailings to law enforcement agencies for investigation if they feel that is warranted, said Thomas Marshall, postal service executive vice president and general counsel.
The statement, addressed to Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, follows a request from members of that state’s congressional delegation for an explanation of Postal Service policy prohibiting material containing the advertising through the federal mail.
Colorado and Oregon are among 23 states that have legalized marijuana use in some form.
Postmasters who think mail contains the ads must accept it but may then report it to law enforcement agencies for investigation “if appropriate,” Marshall said in the letter dated Dec. 15.
Marshall’s response indicates the Postal Service won’t stop mailings including the ads, and “that is reassuring,” said Steve Zansberg, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
A U.S. Department of Justice memo from 2013 providing guidance to all U.S. attorneys outlined eight factors that should influence any decision they make to engage in marijuana enforcement.
Among them are preventing distribution to minors, and distribution of revenue from marijuana sales to criminal enterprises.
Also included are preventing diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to those where it is illegal under state law.
None of them mention the flow of advertising through the mail.
“The U.S. attorney relies on guidance provided by the DOJ,” said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for John Walsh, U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado.
“We can’t speak on individual matters, but we are bound by those eight factors.”
In November, a memo distributed in the Portland, Ore., postal district said it was unlawful for news outlets to run marijuana ads and use the U.S. mail for delivery. The memo caused confusion among publishers whose newspapers publish ads for the region’s dispensaries and manufacturers. Medical and recreational marijuana are legal in Oregon.
“Per USPS policy based on the existing federal statute, local postal officials have been advised not to decide whether written, printed or graphic matter is — solely because of its content — non-mailable,” John Friess, Postal Service spokesman, said in an e-mail.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.