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msnbc.com news services
updated 7/5/2011 12:06:48 PM ET 2011-07-05T16:06:48

Could the pot business save local newspapers?

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Many newspapers are scaling back staff and trying to turn to other sources of revenue, but one Sacramento newspaper is expanding its business by tapping into an unconventional advertising source.

By recognizing the potential for medical marijuana business advertisements, the Sacramento News and Review is expanding its distribution and hiring more staff, reports Sacramento's KXTV.

The free alternative weekly newspaper has published so many ads that it has started printing 4-20, a new supplement to the paper that advertises more than 60 dispensaries.

The paper's CEO/publisher, Jeff vonKaenel, told the station that other newspapers choose not to include medical marijuana ads for fear of driving away other advertisers.

It seems that alternative weeklies are the papers most benefiting from the medical marijuana advertisements. In October 2010, the New York Times reported that in states like Colorado, California and Montana, "newspapers — particularly alternative weeklies — have rushed to woo marijuana providers" and are being generously rewarded.

But the fight between state and federal law rages on in California, where it's hard to define whether medical marijuana is or isn't legal. William Vizzard, a former Fresno County sheriff and professor of criminal justice at CSU Sacramento, told California Watch, "We've kind of reached a point in California in which we say it's medical marijuana, but the reality is that we've thrown our hands up and just accepted it. It's a very cloudy situation."

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