Last week, Denver City Council voted unanimously to ban all outdoor medical marijuana ads -- from billboards, posters and bus benches to windshield leaflets and sign twirlers, Denver's marijuana dispensaries have to tone it down.
Marijuana businesses can still advertise in print, television, radio and online but will have to include a disclaimer that clearly indicates the products being advertised are for registered Colorado medical marijuana patients only, The Associated Press reports.
The Denver medical marijuana community remains divided on the issue. One advocacy group, the Cannabis Business Alliance, was fighting against the full ad ban and was disappointed that ban passed last week. The CBA, once a supporter of the original proposal to ban ads within 1,000 feet of schools and parks, now says that the terms of this full ban are not clear enough with regard to outside marketing that falls outside of bus-benches, billboards and twirlers like festivals and street fairs or even merchandise. Kush Magazine goes further that that saying that a ban of this nature is a violation of the First Amendment.
However, the Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG), a trade association that advocates for responsible medical marijuana regulation at the local, state, and national level and actively pushed for the ad ban that passed, says the move is ultimately a positive one for the industry.
Michael Elliott, the executive director of MMIG provided The Huffington Post with this statement from his group about the ad ban and why they supported it:
The Denver City Council recently passed an ordinance which will eliminate certain troublesome advertising practices utilized by some participants in the medical marijuana industry. My organization, the Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG), supported this ordinance because we believe it finds the right balance between protecting the interests of the medical marijuana community and the citizens of Denver.
Initially, Councilwoman Ortega proposed a prohibition of outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, and parks. Over time, several problems with this proposal became apparent. Firstly, the proposal would have driven medical marijuana advertisements into those Denver neighborhoods located beyond 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, and parks. Secondly, the proposal would have afforded an unfair advertising advantage to the approximately 20% of Denver medical marijuana businesses that are located beyond 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, and parks. Thirdly, enforcing a geographic restriction would be difficult and costly for the city, requiring city employees to get out the measuring tape for every advertising complaint.
To address these problems, Councilman Herndon proposed a citywide prohibition of outdoor medical marijuana business advertising. Soon after, Councilwoman Ortega agreed to co-sponsor this ordinance. The purpose of the ordinance was to require that medical marijuana businesses target their advertisements to medical marijuana patients instead of the general public. As such, the ordinance prohibits medical marijuana businesses from using outdoor advertising such as billboards, leafleting, and sign flippers.
Under the new ordinance, medical marijuana businesses will still have access to a comprehensive range of affordable venues in which to advertise. These include but are not limited to: the print media, merchandising, and web-based solutions including social media. In addition, business signage will still be allowed. But most importantly, patients can be assured that they will have the necessary tools to easily locate and procure their medication.
Put simply, this ordinance addresses those concerns most often voiced by Denver’s citizenry, while maintaining the rights of industry participants to market their businesses in an efficient, fair, and cost-effective manner.
While we remain sympathetic to critics who question the need for additional regulations, MMIG is committed to pushing for a comprehensive regulatory framework. Some may argue that when compared to other industries, medical marijuana has been overregulated. However, for better or worse, we are participants in a young, dynamic, and scrutinized industry. If we are to survive the attacks from without, oversight and regulation must be promulgated and supported from within.
And as time goes by, it is becoming clear that these regulations are working. While many hurdles remain, new data shows that Colorado's medical marijuana regulatory framework is decreasing traffic fatalities, suicides, crime, and teen marijuana usage in our state (studies posted at www.mmig.org).
To prove to our communities that this industry can be the good neighbor, employer, and healthcare provider they desire, we must be willing to compromise and make concessions.
We wish to thank the members of the Denver City Council, especially Councilman Herndon and Councilwoman Ortega, for their efforts on this ordinance. We appreciate that they reached out to our community, took our suggestions, addressed our concerns, and found a targeted solution to a legitimate problem.
While we look forward to the day where medical marijuana businesses are offered the same protections as other businesses, we are willing to remain patient and flexible. It is important to remember that Colorado is on the cutting edge of this issue nationally. MMIG will continue to support reasonable regulations that address community concerns and protect the freedom of Colorado’s citizens.
What do you think? Is outdoor medical marijuana advertising an eyesore that you're happy to see removed from view? Or is it a matter of free speech that regardless of gaudiness, is a right that should be protected? Vote in our poll and tell us your thoughts below.