Weedmaps has served as a flashpoint since the legal market launched and has led many in the legal market to push for action to force the site to stop advertising for unlicensed shops.
And although the company just last week sent out a vaguely worded press release that suggests that they will stop the practice of accepting advertising from illicit black market entities, the company did not disclose when it will begin this new policy.
In the same release, Weedmaps seemed to want to take credit for the social good it has done, when in fact, the opposite is true. By continuing to accept advertising from black market companies, Weedmaps is helping criminal enterprise, and promoting untested, potentially dangerous cannabis in the communities it says it serves.
This duplicitous statement from Weedmaps is just another example of how they continue to put profits ahead of people.
A bill (AB1417) has been in the California Assembly for some time, and continues to work its way through committees. This bill would prohibit media outlets from accepting advertising from unlicensed cannabis operators. It is commonly known as “The Weedmaps Bill.”
Why has it taken so long for this common-sense bill to be approved?
It’s often been said that the best way to unravel a mystery is to “follow the money.” This is what is said to have brought down the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal.
Consider these facts: According to FollowtheMoney.org, Weedmaps and its associates have donated a lot of money to the people that vote on and influence AB1417.
Justin Hartfield, Founder of Weedmaps, donated $56,400 to Gavin Newsom’s successful race for the California Governor’s office. His wife, Melissa, donated $21,000 to Newsom.
Doug Francis, Chairman and former CEO of Weedmaps, donated $10,000 to Newsom.
Ghost Management Group, the organization founded by Hartfield and Francis that owns Weedmaps, has donated over $1.3 million to candidates. Additionally, the group has hired 29 lobbyists over the past 2 years.
That kind of money buys a lot of influence.
A deeper dig
The licensed, regulated industry has shown solidarity against Weedmaps’ support of the illicit market - with one notable exception:
The CCIA, an entity presumable representing the entire cannabis industry, was almost entirely absent from this discussion until very recently.
In the CCIA’s public comments to the BCC (Bureau of Cannabis Control), there was no mention of AB1417.
Likewise, the CCIA made no mention of the bill in its comments to the California Department of Public Health – although promoting illicit dispensaries that sell untested cannabis is clearly a health hazard.
Nor was there any mention of the bill in the organization’s public comments to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Not surprisingly, there was no mention of AB1417 in the CCIA’s 2018 Legislative Summary.
It was not until last month that CCIA put out a letter to state senators, announcing support for AB1417.
Could this obvious lack of enthusiasm and support of AB1417 be because Weedmaps is an important sponsor of CCIA?
If this is true, this clear conflict of interest is appalling, and should be concerning to anyone in the California cannabis industry.
It's time for a change
Perhaps it's time for cannabis companies to reevaluate their support of the CCIA and consider supporting other institutions that represent the industry with transparency, honesty, and integrity.
In the meantime, Weedmaps continues to promote the illegal market and CCIA remains in the background in the fight to support legal, complaint, licensed businesses.