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In protest, Reddit rolls its own pot ads

Parent company Conde Nast tells social-news site to quit running ads promoting marijuana legalization, saying it doesn't want the revenue from them. Reddit's solution: run the ads and don't charge for them.

Quirky social-news site Reddit always seemed an unusual acquisition for Manhattan media giant Conde Nast, and it's never been more evident: asked by Conde Nast overlords to stop running advertisements on behalf of advocates of California's Proposition 19, which supports the legalization of marijuana, Reddit decided they'd do it anyway.

Because Conde Nast said its main concern was obtaining revenue from those controversial advocacy groups, Reddit's solution was that they would simply run the ads for free.

"This was a decision made at the highest levels of Conde Nast," an announcement from Reddit read. "Reddit itself strongly disagrees with it and, frankly, thinks it's ridiculous that we're turning away advertising money...We're trying to convince Corporate that they're making the wrong decision here, and we encourage the community to create a petition, so that your anger is organized in a way that will produce results."

Conde Nast's official response: "As a corporation, Conde Nast does not want to benefit financially from this particular issue."

Reddit's users, many of whom are outspoken marijuana legalization advocates themselves (Reddit operates a sub-site called "Trees," devoted to weed-related news), had been up in arms over the decision. Dozens of users said that they would be instituting ad-blocking software in protest. Recently, pro-legalization ads have been making headlines because of the revelation that while Google's policies are relatively liberal, Facebook will ban ads that contain images of "drug paraphernalia, or tobacco." The iconic green cannabis leaf doesn't make the cut.

Representatives of the advocacy group that created the ads, Just Say Now, said that they are particularly concerned about Conde Nast's rejection of the advertisements because the group supports medical marijuana ballot initiatives in addition to Proposition 19.

"Reddit's decision to side with its users and Just Say Now is a big step forward to fight against corporate nannies like Conde Nast and Facebook, who'd rather censor marijuana than encourage an open discussion," a statement from Just Say Now organizer Michael Whitney read. "The reality is that a majority of Americans want to end the war on marijuana, and it's time for Conde Nast, Facebook, and other censor-happy corporations to catch up to the rest of the country. Just Say Now is thrilled to have the support of companies like Reddit and Google in allowing a debate about ending the war on marijuana."

This is the second time in fewer than two months that Reddit has vocally expressed dissatisfaction with its Conde Nast parentage. Last month, the site put out a call for user donations to help make changes, claiming that Conde Nast's budget allotments to Reddit wouldn't cover them.

This post was expanded at 4:15 a.m. PT on Monday with comment from Just Say Now.