Alaska Marijuana Control Board Sets Limits On Advertising

In an effort to avoid drawing the ire of the 47% of the population that voted against legalizing marijuana in Alaska, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board has decided to limit the ability of cannabis companies to advertise.

Giving away branded merchandise, such as sweatshirts, pens, calendars, etc., will be illegal. The board plans to clarify language regarding the differences between selling and giving away merchandise.

The draft of the ordinance reads: “A marijuana retail store may not use giveaway coupons, or distribute branded merchandise as promotional materials, or conduct promotional activities such as games or competitions to encourage sale of marijuana or marijuana products.”

Board Director Cynthia Franklin explained that the idea behind the prohibition was to avoid the use of marketing tactics used by the tobacco industry. “”A time-honored tactic of the tobacco industry was to give away Marlboro Man T-shirts and candy cigarettes,” said Franklin.

Franklin also argued that the reason Montana’s medical marijuana industry was recriminalized in 2014 by a ballot initiative was because the state allowed too much advertising. Montana’s medical marijuana industry was initially opposed by 36% of the population; 47% of Alaskans voted against legalizing marijuana.

“Advertising is a very public thing,” said Franklin. “Take a long view of this industry and don’t think that we need to advertise to the max. If we go crazy … we run the risk of attracting attention not only from our state legislators but the people who voted against this.”

Board member Mark Springer argued that the limits imposed on businesses were too strong, and amounted to “economic management.” Franklin countered that the board needed to balance public health concerns with profit maximization.

“I’m not really sure it’s the board’s job to make business decisions in the other way: to write rules that are designed to make businesses maximize their profits,” she said.


Photo Credit: Roger W

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