Marijuana panel approves ban on most cannabis advertising
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously Thursday to ban billboard, radio, TV and most online advertising by marijuana companies — a move that representatives for the firms said they would fight in the General Assembly when it convenes next month.
The new rules also prohibit advertising in print publications such as newspapers and magazines that cannot prove that 85 percent of their audience is over 18 years old, and bans the use of leaflets or flyers in most public and private places.
In addition, the regulations state that internet ads must be accompanied by an age-verification page that users have to answer, a hurdle that cannabis officials say essentially prohibits online ads because there is no way to verify accurate ages.
The commission’s move, which would not go into effect for several weeks, comes just as the industry is rapidly growing. The commission’s executive director, Joy Strand, reported at the meeting that the state’s 71 cannabis stores have sold $96 million in products to Maryland residents since last December.
Without advertising, industry officials worry about the ability for cannabis companies to expand their businesses.
“This a total ban on advertising,” said Mackie Barch, chairman of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association. “Social media is our only source. How do we communicate with anyone when Instagram is shutting down every cannabis-related account there?”
Jennifer White, a commission spokeswoman, said the commission’s policy committee recommended the new regulations to mirror restrictions against the advertising of tobacco products.
It is unclear when the ban would go into effect. White said the attorney general’s office still has to review the regulations and that, possibly, the General Assembly would have to vote on them.