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Thursday, December 17,2009

Dex doesn't know cannabis

By Jefferson Dodge

The Dex Yellow Pages may operate under the moniker “DexKnows,” but if you go searching for medical marijuana dispensaries in its paid listings, Dex is pleading ignorance.

Wolf Wolfstar, a co-owner of the dispensary Indigenous Medicines in Boulder, told Boulder Weekly that when she recently tried to place a paid advertisement with Dex, she wanted to list the term “medical cannabis” in the ad.

At one point, Wolfstar says, her Dex ad representative offered to place it under a new heading, “Dispensaries.” But the representative then backed off on that offer, telling Wolfstar that the ad wouldn’t be included at all because “the attorneys and higher-ups were concerned about placing the listings,” she says.

So Wolfstar compromised, removed “medical cannabis” from the listing, and agreed to have the ad placed under the “Alternative Medicine” heading. She wasn’t permitted to add words like “tinctures” or “edibles.” On the other hand, she was successful in having the words “Free RN consultation” printed in green.

“I don’t understand why a legal business in the state of Colorado is being prohibited … from listing a legitimate business in the phone book,” Wolfstar says. “The Bus Stop is listed. There’s no problem listing an alcohol ad, even with the word ‘liquor’ in it. Even tobacco ads are in the book.”

Peter Larmey, manager of external communications for Dex’s parent company, R.H. Donnelley, told Boulder Weekly that the company had, in fact, reviewed the whole marijuana advertising issue a few months ago and decided against running such ads because marijuana is still prohibited at the federal level, and because there is still such regsee ulatory uncertainty in states that have authorized it.

“As long as it’s federal law, we don’t feel it is appropriate to list those kinds of ads in our book,” Larmey says.

He adds that it’s still unclear which dispensaries are legitimate. “We try to make sure that all businesses in our book are legitimate,” he says. “We thought that customers would be better served by erring on the safe side.”

When asked what other terms besides “cannabis,” “tinctures” and “edibles” have been blackballed by the company, Larmey consulted with his company’s legal office, then replied that the issue is not the words used, but whether the business sells pot. Asked how the company determines whether a business is a dispensary, he acknowledged that it’s a “gray area” in which Dex relies on its ad reps to make the determination. “It’s a difficult area that we police as best as we can,” Larmey said. “If it’s found out that a business is promoting or selling marijuana in any way, we don’t include their ad in our book.”

A search for “medical marijuana” in Dex’s online directory this week turned up a handful of Colorado providers. Larmey said those dispensaries are not Dex advertisers; they are simply telephone listings obtained from Qwest.

Wolfstar says it’s not just the phone book that is treating dispensaries like lepers. She says her dispensary approached a Broomfield bank about obtaining a loan, and bank representatives were open to the idea — until they learned the business was a dispensary.

Laura Kriho, public relations coordinator for the Cannabis Therapy Institute, told Boulder Weekly that she has heard similar stories from dispensary owners.

Kriho says it’s simple: businesses that are medical marijuana-friendly will make money from this growth industry, and those that aren’t, won’t.

“If we need to go to other people for these services, they will profit all the more,” she says. “So it’s fine if we weed these others out early.”

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