City council members in Denver Colorado voted 13-0 to ban outdoor advertising for medical marijuana and medical cannabis products this past week. Now some pro cannabis groups are claiming this is an act against first amendment rights.
Last Monday night Denver Council members passed an ordinance to curb promotion of the medical marijuana industry claiming the psychedelic billboards and street signs paint a controversial and negative image of the medical cannabis measure and the city.
The ban would include billboards, sidewalk sign-twirlers, curb signs, store front advertizing vehicles and bus-bench ads. However the ordinance doesn't affect TV, radio and printed ads giving dispensaries the ability to still advertize and educate for medical marijuana in the city. They will also be required to include a disclaimer that says marijuana is for "registered Colorado medical marijuana patients only."
"I don't appreciate folks that are out in front of a creepy old van slinging this dope, and they're making this industry look bad," said Councilman Paul Lopez, "I'm sick and tired of my neighborhood being overrun by folks who don't respect it."
ABC news reports that some pro medical marijuana groups are backing the councils decision.
The Medical Marijuana Industry Group in Denver backed the vote by outlining the ads give people a bad impression of the industry. They site the billboards as promoting the "getting high" aspect rather then the medical benefits of the much needed drug, and the image portrayed could damage future business relations.
But other pro medical cannabis groups such as the Cannabis Business Alliance, argues that the ban goes too far and inhabits the ability to educate the public about the benefits of medical marijuana. A decision made by a Montana judge to block a state wide advertising ban was sited, District Judge James Reynolds ruled that the advertising ban is a First Amendment violation and that "any violation of the right to free speech is an irreparable injury."
Many states including Delaware and Vermont have similar advertising bans for medical cannabis, and Washington prohibits physicians from advertising that they recommend cannabis in their state. These led to raising questions nation wide about the legality of these bans and whether the ordinance trumps their first amendment rights.
Regardless of being a state divided by the rule however, the advertising ban stays as of now in Colorado. Maybe it is time to step forward and paint a more professional, educated, society friendly and adult picture around medical cannabis and medical marijuana products.