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Vaping Illness Might Push Weedmaps to Legitimize Their Site

Written by Alexandra Hicks

We recently reported on Weedmaps’ announcement to remove unlicensed cannabis dispensaries from their directory, but as it turns out, the advertising giant is in no rush to make the changes.

For all the licensed dispensaries jumping through hoops to run a legal business, the new requirements to list on Weedmaps couldn’t come soon enough. But unfortunately, they might have to wait a while longer. According to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), there is no deadline for when Weedmaps has to remove these ads, which apparently might be on the back burner until the end of December.

However, it’s possible that the recent outbreak in vaping illnesses – believed to be related to unregulated THC cartridges – might be the thing to light the fire under their feet.

The Vaping Epidemic

As of today (September 18th) there is an estimated 500 people receiving medical care for acute, vaping-related lung disease, as well as 7 deaths reported. The most recent came from California, and it’s the second death in the state. This issue begs immediate attention as the numbers continue to rise and government agencies across the country are taking note. For example, just yesterday, New York became the first state to implement a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigs.

Over the last decade, E-cigarettes like Juul, as well as various other vaping products, have rose to fame as a “healthy” alternative to regular tobacco cigarettes. Nowadays, they’re insanely trendy among teens and young adults and you can find a vape shop in nearly every town in the United States. A federal government survey from last year found that 21 percent of high school seniors had vaped within the last 30 days.

Sadly, it’s these young people that are turning up in droves at hospitals across the country, some so sick they need to be placed on ventilators. Although the median age of the patients is 19 years old, all of the deaths occurred in people over the age of 50 – some whom were confirmed to have other chronic health conditions.

Announcement from Weedmaps

Last month, Southern California-based advertising company, Weedmaps, announced plans to remove all unlicensed cannabis services from their website. The move was praised by many of their clients who are operating legally and were being undercut by the low prices of grey market dispensaries.

According to Weedmaps, they plan to “restrict the use of point of sale, online orders, delivery logistics, and wholesale exchange software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms to licensed operators exclusively.” The company followed up by mentioning that, “In addition, Weedmaps will explore ways to make it easier for patients and adult-use consumers to identify the license number on advertised listings.”

Many people believe that Weedmaps is just yielding to the powers that be, but others believe the company truly wants to help foster and promote the legal cannabis industry, especially in states like California where the black market continues to thrive. In a statement to reporters, Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals stated that the new move stems from a “commitment to working with lawmakers and regulators to promote a flourishing legal market”

What’s next?

President of the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA), Jerred Kiloh, recently submitted a demand to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-CA) office and the Bureau requesting that Weedmaps be fined $85 million per day over the ads, for as long as the violations continue. He cited provision from Assembly Bill 97 in his argument. He was denied, however, and informed that Weedmaps can decide for themselves when to made the changes and remove the ads.

“Where both of their stances are coming from is they really want to bring as many people into compliance before they throw down the heavy hand of enforcement, and they’re doing that with every possible licensee in every possible case,” Kiloh told MJ Biz Daily. “Where we’re at is, how long are you going to let someone else tell you they’re going to break the law and when they’re going to stop. That’s a bad look for California, and that’s a bad look for enforcement.”

According to Kiloh, the only options are to wait it out, or attempt to take Weedmaps to court. But as well-connected as the company is, it could end up being a long, drawn out battle that will likely end favorably for Weedmaps anyway. Kiloh and the UCBA will persist on though, and will attempt to renegotiate a solution before the end of the year.

Final Thoughts

The fact of the matter is, Weedmaps yields a lot of power in this fight against illegal cannabis. Many of these unlicensed shops are banking on the fact that regardless of their legal status, they can still get a Weedmaps listing and develop a consumer base. As a Californian myself, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t use this service to find their buds.

Taking Weedmaps out of the equation for black market shops could be the driving force that forces them to begin the licensing process or shutter their doors.

That said, it looks like it’s a waiting game at this point. But the recent uptick in vaping-related illness could certainly make Weedmaps reconsider their timeline and get the ball rolling a bit sooner than planned.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.