MMJ Outdoor Advertising Ban: What's Next?

This summer, Denver's City Council could decide to ban all outdoor advertising for medical marijuana businesses in the city.
June 2012

Denver's city council will hear a proposed ordinance later this summer that could ban outdoor advertising for medical marijuana dispensaries, a move that at least one trade group says could hurt the industry.

Shawn Coleman, executive director of the Colorado-based Cannabis Business Alliance, says that a sweeping decision to ban outdoor advertisements would be a "serious legislative overreach" that would delegitimize the state's medical marijuana businesses. The proposed ban stems from a discussion about how to handle MMJ businesses that are near child care centers, parks, recreation centers, and schools. An earlier, less-sweeping plan—which gained support among many of the council and will be voted on in August—would simply follow federal tobacco-advertising ordinances and had been backed by many of the state's cannabis organizations as a way to responsibly promote medical marijuana in the state.

Coleman, who was part of a consortium of industry groups that helped Councilwoman Debbie Ortega develop the narrower ban, now says the medical marijuana industry should be allowed to police itself first. Much of the perceived negative advertising—from sidewalk sign-holders to massive billboards—represents a minority of the medical marijuana businesses in the city, he says. "This is still a growing industry, and we have a lot of first-time business owners who are inexperienced and are trying to figure things out as they go," Coleman says. "It's important that the industry markets itself responsibly, and I think that can happen."

If the larger ban were approved, "then the city is basically saying that we're not comfortable with the medical marijuana industry in our community," Coleman continues. "But it's now a part of our culture, and it's not going away."

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