Signs of the times: Cannabis billboards are subject to restrictions

Last month, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted 98 to 48 to limit the advertising of cannabis products and services to those who hold industry-relevant licenses. The impetus for the bill came largely from towns along the Massachusetts border where store billboards just over the state line have proliferated since legalization took effect. in the Bay State.

“Listen, I’m sick of seeing these billboards with cannabis leaves spread everywhere, within 1,500 meters of a school or a church or whatever. Can’t we do something more about it? Rep. Mike D’Agostino (D-Hamden) told the General Assembly General Laws Committee earlier this year.

A cannabis billboard in Springfield, Massachusetts. Photo by Justin McGown.

Despite some of the support for the bill stemming from an aversion to industry visibility, Fred McKinney, the director of economics consultancy BJM Solutions, which counts the Alliance for Cannabis Equity (ACE) as a client, didn’t argue with that.

“I don’t think it’s problematic,” said McKinney, who is one of the authors of ACE’s Cannabis Manifesto for Social Equality. “Obviously if you’re in business, you have a license, that’s the only way you can be in business, so it’s in your interest to market your business and its products. You don’t want out-of-state cannabis suppliers trying to lure out-of-state cannabis customers.

According to McKinney, the law would not pose a problem for any legal business in Connecticut. Some friction can still occur between cities that oppose billboards, even when advertising local businesses and licensed cannabis dealers. However, as currently worded, the bill will actually help the industry grow once the first legal recreational dispensaries open by reducing cross-border appeal.

“It also complies with federal law,” McKinney noted. “It is still a federal crime to transport cannabis across state lines. I think you can also argue that it’s the state telling consumers in Connecticut “don’t cross state lines to go buy marijuana.”

McKinney also dismissed concerns that the bill could prevent advertising entirely as written. State-approved companies with financial support or imported products can partner with national organizations to buy advertising.

“Money is quite fungible,” he said. “It would be hard, in my opinion, to say that would prohibit an out-of-state business from supporting an out-of-state business by doing marketing like this.”

Going forward, McKinney predicted that marijuana will be treated like other adult products.

“I think the best example would be the way you see alcohol advertising and the way you saw cigarette advertising if you’re old enough to remember when you saw that,” he said. declared. “I think there is a legitimate state interest in reducing some of the advertising in the industry. While I’m a strong proponent of legalization, I also don’t want to see billboards everywhere. There will be restrictions similar to those you see with alcohol and tobacco sold or advertised near schools and churches.

McKinney predicted that if federal legalization happens, it will happen within the next five years and the cannabis industry will soon resemble the alcohol industry in terms of retail and regulation.

Marilyn J. Hernandez