Custom postage stamps may not contain any images of marijuana, even though some depictions of alcohol, tobacco and guns are allowed.
That’s part of a final ruling the U.S. Postal Service is expected to release this week.
“To be eligible for use in Customized Postage products, images and/or text must meet criteria established by the Postal Service,” the agency says in a new filing scheduled to be published on Tuesday in the Federal Register. “Acceptable commercial or social images or text must not contain content that is unsuitable for all-ages audiences, including but not limited to…[a]ny depiction of controlled substances, including but not limited to marijuana.”
Back in January, when the Postal Service first proposed the prohibition on certain content being depicted on custom stamps, it included an across-the-board ban on alcohol and tobacco as well, in addition to guns and other weapons:
(1) Images or text must not contain:
(ii) Any depiction of alcohol; tobacco; controlled substances, including but not limited to marijuana; gambling; or firearms or other weapons;
But in response to public comments received in the meantime, the Postal Service is scaling back the proposed rule to allow for “incidental depictions” of alcohol, tobacco and weaponry.
“For alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and weapons, the Postal Service agrees that allowing incidental depictions of these prohibited categories of content contained within otherwise eligible images would be consistent with program purposes while maintaining or increasing revenues,” the new filing reads. “For example, an image of toasting wedding celebrants may remain eligible despite depictions of alcohol, an image of an armed services member may remain eligible despite depictions of weaponry, and so on.”
Now, the relevant section reads:
(2) Acceptable commercial or social images or text must not contain content that is unsuitable for all-ages audiences, including but not limited to:
(i) Any non-incidental depiction of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or firearms or other weapons;
(ii) Any depiction of controlled substances, including but not limited to marijuana;
The Postal Service is maintaining a ban on depictions of alcohol company logos, however, despite public comments requesting they be allowed.
“The eligibility of alcoholic beverage logos in the commercial content category was requested,” the Federal Register filing says. “Although allowing incidental depictions of alcohol in a commercial or social context, as explained above, is acceptable under the final rules, allowing the nonincidental display of logos promoting alcoholic beverage sales creates more brand risks, and arguably opens other commercial categories that the Postal Service may be compelled to accept by First Amendment principles, e.g., logos promoting tobacco, weapons, or gambling enterprises.”
The new rules take effect on May 15, 2018.
This isn’t the Postal Service’s first foray into marijuana politics. In 2015, the agency announced it would not allow carriers to deliver mail containing advertisements for marijuana products, including newspapers. That led to pushback from members of Congress representing places where cannabis businesses are legal under state law.