Colorado now permits billboard marijuana advertisements, however Denver nonetheless does not


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Denver hasn’t passed a new law allowing billboards for the Colorado marijuana industry, but that may change soon.

State law, enacted in January, allows marijuana companies to advertise outdoor billboards, but as with many new pot exemptions, local jurisdictions must decide that first. And Denver hasn’t done it before.

Colorado’s current marijuana advertising laws, created by the State Licensing Authority, follow voluntary advertising restrictions similar to those used by the alcohol industry to prevent the sale or diversion of marijuana to minors. The federal status of the plant, however, resulted in a more restrictive advertising landscape for pots than for alcohol.

With the exception of company signs on commercial properties, any advertising visible from streets, sidewalks, parks and other public spaces was illegal until January 2020. However, that restriction is gradually easing thanks to a 2019 bill to revise state regulations for the marijuana industry. Marijuana businesses can now use outdoor advertising as long as they are at least 500 feet from schools, playgrounds, and churches. The municipality in which the signs are located allows such advertising.

Denver hasn’t joined the party yet, but could allow marijuana billboards in the future, according to Eric Escudero.
Director of Communications for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses.

All outdoor cannabis advertising is still illegal in Denver, but since nearby communities like Glendale and Lakeside – which some people believe are a pot with Denver – allow the pot industry to buy billboards, “It’s possible Denver conforms more to state law, “says Escudero.

Denver City Council is expected to decide before the end of the year whether to pass a new marijuana ordinance that Escudero calls “Marijuana 2.0”. Along with possible changes in advertising policy, the city will consider introducing stricter rules on hospitality and marijuana delivery. After gathering input from public health officials, representatives from industry, and advocates of social justice, excise duty and licensing will make formal recommendations to the council, which will ultimately decide on changes to marijuana policy.

Current Colorado law states that advertisements cannot be served in media in which more than 28.4 percent of the target audience is under the age of 21. This is the legal age to buy or own a recreational pot. Marijuana companies can advertise on television, radio, in print publications, or on the Internet as long as the ads meet the age restrictions and don’t claim products are safe or have health benefits.

However, the Colorado marijuana companies have already found another way to present themselves.

The Sponsor a Highway program – a partnership with the State Department of Transportation where private companies maintain a clean, two-mile stretch of highway in exchange for a sign with the sponsor’s name – marijuana companies own 48 percent of the program’s 248 miles sponsored Autobahn in 2018 according to a Westword report by Michael Roberts.

Silver Stem Fine Cannabis, one of several Colorado companies that rolled out roads across the state, does not consider participating in the Sponsor a Highway program a form of advertising (although one of the first references on the Sponsor a Highway website is about brand awareness). Because the message on a sign cannot include product information or business locations, Silver Stem Co-Founder Stan Zislis claims that he and his colleagues “truly believe that our sponsorship of Adopt-a-Highway is truly sponsorship in the fullest sense of the word. ” the word and no advertising. ”

Although Silver Stem Fine Cannabis currently has no plans for outdoor advertising, Zislis sees the relaxation of cannabis advertising laws as a good step forward. “The message during the campaign on Amendment 64 was to regulate marijuana like alcohol. While marijuana is still a more restrictive good, it’s a step in the right direction for the industry,” he says.

However, before any new advertising changes are made in Denver, Escudero said the city will examine its impact on how teenagers perceive marijuana. Since recreational activities were legalized in late 2012, Colorado has not seen a dramatic increase in overall youth potty use, but marijuana use rates among teenagers in Denver are among the highest in the state, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the surrounding area.

“The priority is to make sure the risk perception doesn’t drop – so the teens don’t think it’s okay for them to use them,” says Escudero. “Part of the promise when marijuana was legalized in the state was protection.” Youth … That terrible prediction that youth usage could skyrocket has not materialized, and we want it to stay that way. “

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Clara Geoghegan is a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder where she studied anthropology with an emphasis on public health. She worked at Radio 1190’s News Underground and freelanced for Denverite. She is now the cannabis intern at Westword.

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