Few Places to Advertise Cannabis Products [PHIL-OSOPHY]
While some legislators are talking about cracking down on the illegal sale of pot – good luck there – other lawmakers are cracking down on billboard advertising because of ironclad state restrictions on the marketing and advertising of legal marijuana products.
So, even though it's legal to sell, it's hard to advertise it here. As far as I know, online platforms like Facebook and Google don't allow drug-related promotions on their sites. And that's not going to change until they pass marijuana federally. Television and radio stations have their own set of rules and then cannabis businesses have to weave in and out of tough state regulations. What's a business to do?
I'm sure advertising norms will change eventually as marijuana becomes more mainstream, but for now, Massachusetts cannabis businesses are very limited as to how to spread the word about their products to the consumers. Companies like Weedmaps, a California-based online cannabis directory, have bought up a lot of the billboards and now critics are saying there should be a ban on pot billboards.
A proposal filed by Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) would outlaw the use of billboards by recreational and medical marijuana companies statewide. DiZoglio said marijuana companies are breaching the regulations on advertising by displaying ads on billboards in communities where young people can see them. Under Massachusetts advertising restrictions, TV, radio, print and billboard advertising are banned unless at least 85 percent of the audience is over 21. Coupons, free samples, prizes, discounts and other promotional activities are also prohibited.
I would hope that billboards are generally protected as free speech. If this nonsense of an advertising ban of billboards goes forward, I'm certain that proponents of marijuana have a damn good case to argue before the Supreme Judicial Court. After all, the product is legal and retailers should have the right to advertise where their services are located.
Maybe someone will get creative with advertising pot on billboards. Just imagine passing a billboard that says something like (in gold color) "Let's Be Blunt ... There's Olympic Gold and Acapulco Gold... 319A Union St. New Beige."
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.