Calif. pot shops decry online ads for illegal sellers


Associated Press

LOS ANGELES

Weedmaps is a go-to website for people looking to find a marijuana shop. With a few clicks on a cellphone, customers can find virtually any type of cannabis product, along with the fastest route to the place selling it and ratings from other consumers to help them decide what to buy.

But legal and illegal operators advertise next to each other, and licensed operators in California say that’s put them at a disadvantage in a cutthroat marketplace.

To them, Weedmaps is helping illegal sellers flourish without having any of the obligations licensed operators endure – collecting and paying taxes, insuring their businesses and employees, and abiding by safety rules for their products.

In other words, illegal shops can sell pot at cheaper prices, sometimes 30 percent to 50 percent less.

“That’s Weedmaps’ business model, to confuse the difference between legal and illegal,” said Jerred Kiloh, a licensed dispensary owner in Los Angeles who heads the United Cannabis Business Association, an industry group. “It’s an unfair playing field. They are pitting us against each other.”

Weedmaps operates in more than two dozen states, but the issue is coming to a head in California, which in January became the nation’s largest legal marketplace. State regulators last month warned Weedmaps to stop advertising shops operating outside the law.

In a response, Weedmaps executives said they are eager to work with the state but asserted that the online directory doesn’t fall under state authority and is shielded by provisions in federal law.

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