Lawmakers in California have rejected a previous proposal, dubbed Senate Bill 162, to impose dramatic restrictions on marijuana advertising, in effect agreeing to shred a bill that would have prohibited the cannabis industry from advertising on all clothing and most other merchandise, putting pot businesses at a distinct disadvantage in a highly competitive market.
The proposal, by State Senator and Santa Monica Democrat, Ben Allen, would have prevented any business with a state-issued marijuana license from advertising “through the use of branded merchandise, including, but not limited to, clothing, hats, or other merchandise with the name or logo of the product.” The only exemptions would have been for nonprofits and other noncommercial ads.
Allen and others in favor of Senate Bill 162 argue that the bill would protect children from potentially harmful marketing practices. However, the measure has many critics, most of whom consider the bill overreaching and worry that it could ultimately be more harmful than good. Back in May, the measure passed the state Senate with a unanimous 40-0 vote.
Then, a month later in June, an Assembly committee approved it 12-0. However, it languished idly from there, and on Friday last week, lawmakers finally decided to let it die. San Francisco-based attorney Rebecca Stamey-White, who works in both the alcohol and cannabis industries, discussed Senate Bill 162 with Leafly in June, while it was passing through state Legislature.
She said, “Senate Bill 162 is broad enough in its language that it could cover branded merchandise worn by employees, or even merchandise produced by an unlicensed third party if it was done so for the licensee.” Many opponents are very vocal in their argument that the bill risks restricting fair speech unfairly. Others worry that it could hinder small companies.
Still, others argue that, because the proposal applies to state-licensed marijuana businesses exclusively, it may lead to unforeseen, even absurd, results, such as restricting even classy outfits by licensed weed companies while ignoring potentially more problematic merchandise sold by non-marijuana companies. Despite the bill’s failure, Allen defended it to the LA Times by calling it a “commonsense measure.”
“The Legislature in the past has wisely prohibited advertising with branded merchandise by tobacco companies, expressly because items like hats and t-shirts are known to entice kids to smoke,” Allen claimed. “This was a commonsense measure to apply similar restrictions that would help prevent marijuana use by teens.”
Currently, California’s marijuana laws already contain a number of advertising and packaging restrictions. cannabusinesses cannot use certain music, shapes, language, cartoon characters, or other content is known to captivate the attention of children. In addition to going nowhere near daycares, schools, and youth centers, advertisements are only permissible if at least 71.6 percent of the audience is 21-years and older.
There are also restrictions currently in place for branded merchandise. Distribution of branded caps, hats, t-shirts and other apparel may only occur at “an industry trade show or other similar venues where the attendees are required to be 21-years of age or older.” Despite the failure of Senate Bill 162 regarded as a legal win for the marijuana industry, the advertising fight is unlikely over.
Concerns about advertising to children and influence within the industry where some of the most potent political arguments opposing Proposition 64, the measure legalizing recreational adult use, during its consideration by voters last year. As lawmakers continue to make every effort to appease voters, we can expect to see further adherence to the demands of California’s citizenry.