DENVER (CN) – Medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado will have to limit their ads to adult publications if a bill slated for a hearing in the House Finance Committee next week becomes law.
House Bill 1363 would prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from advertising in media that have a “high likelihood of reaching persons under eighteen years of age.”
It would ban ads that tout health benefits of marijuana, and prohibit pop-up Internet ads and any mobile marketing banners that target cellphone users who haven’t downloaded a marijuana-specific app.
The bill by state Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, was introduced by the Colorado Department of Revenue, which regulates retail and medical marijuana.
Since medical pot was legalized in Colorado in 2000, and recreational pot in 2012, marijuana ads have been a lucrative niche for Colorado publications.
In 2010, even before recreational pot was legal, The Daily Chronicle newspaper, in Bozeman, Mont., reported more than $7,000 a month in revenue from medical marijuana ads.
Early in 2014, only weeks after the Denver Post introduced its now formidable Cannabist column and website, the Post said it had attracted more than 250,000 unique viewers online.
House Bill 1363 resembles H.B. 1317 , which was signed into law in 2013, which places similar restrictions on “mass-market campaigns” from marijuana stores for ads that might reach minors.
H.B. 1317 prohibits any publication with more than 30 percent readership from people younger than 21 from publishing recreational marijuana ads.
Denver newspaper Westword, the first newspaper to hire a marijuana critic, in its appropriately titled “Ask A Stoner” column, sued the state after H.B. 1317 was passed, but the courts ruled that only a recreational marijuana business would have standing to sue on that issue.
If the final language of H.B. 1363 adapts similar language to its predecessor, it would not affect the Denver Post, 30 percent of whose readership is 18 to 34.
Other Colorado industries than newspaper and Internet sites have had issues with legislative limitations on marijuana advertising.
In 2012, the Denver City Council began regulating outdoor medical marijuana advertisements, including billboards and sign twirlers. It banned such outdoor advertising anywhere in the city, rather than a more flexible bill that would have banned such billboards only within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, and parks.
In July last year, Denver TV station KMGH Channel 7 had to put the brakes on a 15-second commercial for the marijuana dispensary The Green Solution, in an effort to avoid controversy. The spot was set to air on late night TV, on federal airwaves. It would have been the first Denver TV station to broadcast a marijuana commercial. Few or none have since stepped up to the plate.
The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper condemned H.B. 1363 in an April 4 editorial.
“Like it or not, the people of Colorado have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use,” the editorial said. “And, like it or not, the marijuana industry has the right to market its product (and we cannot emphasize this enough) to adult readers.
“H.B. 1363 is not only overstepping legislative authority, it also represents the action of a nanny state that treats private businesses run by adults like children who are incapable of making sound, ethical and legitimate decisions.”
The House Finance Committee will hold a hearing on H.B. 1363 on April 13.
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