Massachusetts Lawmakers Consider Cannabis Billboard Ban

Lawmakers in Massachusetts have proposed the banning of cannabis advertisements from billboards; proponents of the ban say that billboards flout state laws that prohibit the advertising of cannabis to minors.

Full story after the jump.

A proposal in Massachusetts would ban cannabis companies from advertising on billboards, the Gloucester Daily Times reports. Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D) said that cannabis billboards flout state laws prohibiting cannabis advertising to minors.

“The goal of the Legislature was to ensure that these billboards are not going to be placed in communities where children are going to be exposed to them. But we know that isn’t happening.” – DiZoglio to the Daily Times

The town of Havervill has already forced the removal of a billboard by Weedmaps that hung over a bus station due to complaints that the ad targeted youth.

David O’Brien, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, called the proposal “a bit surprising” because the advertising and marketing rules on cannabusinesses in the state “are already very strict.” He said the association doesn’t want to see regulations further restricting the industry’s “ability to reach customers.”

Jody Hensley, a policy adviser for the anti-legalization group Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, said the organization supports the proposed ban on cannabis billboards and contends that cannabis advertising “is tied to increased use of the drug.”

“There’s broad agreement that young people shouldn’t use marijuana, and one of the proven methods to prevent that is prohibiting advertising that reaches them,” she said in the report.

The state’s 2016 voter-approved cannabis legalization law did not set advertising limits; instead, those rules were enacted last year by the Legislature. Those rules – which prohibit TV, radio, print, and billboard advertisements unless at least 85 percent of the audience is over 21-years-old – were adopted by the Cannabis Control Commission. The advertising rules also ban coupons, free samples, prizes, discounts and the distributions of cannabis-branded merchandise.

Jim Borghesani, a marijuana industry consultant, called the rules “overkill.”

“We have to get out of this mindset that marijuana is somehow more dangerous than alcohol. It’s a legal product that should be treated the same way,” he said in an interview with the Daily Times.

Massachusetts Bar Association Chief Legal Counsel Martin Healy told the Daily Times that the cannabis industry and advertisers “would likely have a good case in front of the Supreme Judicial Court” to argue that cannabis is legal in the state and that “they should have the ability to advertise where their services are located and where people can purchase it.”

All cannabis advertising is outlawed in Maryland, following a decision last year by the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission, while lawmakers in San Diego, California are also considering a billboard ban for cannabis advertisements.

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