U.S. Postal Service has more to worry about than marijuana ads

Public support for the legalization of marijuana is on the rise.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans think it should be legalized. That's a 14 percent jump since Gallup polled Americans in 2009, and a 46 percent jump since Gallup first asked the question in 1969.

Recreational marijuana use is now legal in four states, and close to two dozen states have provisions allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Those numbers can be expected to increase as public support for marijuana legalization continues to grow, as can the number of businesses looking to grow and sell weed to consumers.

It only stands to reason that if more and more businesses are going to market pot to consumers, those businesses will need to advertise. But if what happened in Oregon last month is any indication, advertising marijuana might be a little trickier than expected.

As the Washington Post's Lisa Rein reported, in November, the postal district in Portland sent a memo to newspaper publishers, informing them that it was illegal to run pot ads in their publications and to use the U.S. Postal Service to mail papers containing those ads to subscribers. Despite marijuana being legal in Oregon and a few surrounding states, the USPS is a federal entity, and newspapers that run ads for marijuana in those states are violating federal law banning the advertising of so-called illicit goods.

In response to the memo, Democrats in the state's congressional delegation sent an angry letter to postal officials, accusing the USPS of being overly rigid and urging them to respect the fact that voters in those states support legalized pot.

This is yet another awkward case where state and federal law clash. As Jazz Shaw at HotAir.com theorizes, officials at the Post Office likely consulted with officials at the Justice Department before issuing their memo. Mr. Shaw wrote that if that indeed happened, then it can be safely assumed that there are some in D.C. who still want to prosecute cases involving marijuana in states where it is now legal. Mr. Shaw also doubts that the feds will actually go after the newspaper owners in question, and that the USPS might just be trying to cover its rear end in this case.

So, the U.S. Postal Service — with its fiscal insolvency, out-of-date vehicle fleet, shrinking staff, unpaid retiree benefits fund and money-losing post offices — is telling newspapers, which are struggling themselves, that they can't allow a legal business to advertise in their publications if they want to distribute any of their newspapers through the mail?

Here's a novel idea: how about the post office gets its own house in order before it starts ordering another industry to turn away business?