Washington state legalized a recreational marijuana market back in 2012, but that has not stopped state regulators from doing everything in their power to hinder the newfound trade in its ability to sell products like any other business. Earlier last week, the Liquor Control Board, the hand of God as far as the state’s pot industry is concerned, brought the hammer down on the marijuana business community by publishing a list of strict guidelines in regards to how the industry is allowed to market to stoners.
Although marijuana is being used for medicinal purposes in over half the states here in America, the updated advertising restrictions in Washington state will not allow the labels of marijuana-related products to suggest that cannabis has the ability to provide consumers with therapeutic benefits. Apparently, regulators also do not want the general public to know that legal weed is now available in the Evergreen State, as the new guidelines ban marijuana ads from public property, including public transportation vehicles.
In a bizarre twist to the rules, even though marijuana merchants are forbidden from implementing promotions, such as giveaways, coupons, and specialty merchandise branded with their company logo, they are allowed to set up a secondary company to sell marijuana-themed promotional merchandise. Yet, these businesses are not allowed to sell promotional products in any retail space where pot is sold.
As far as advertising on television and radio, the Liquor Control Board did not publish specific regulations banning marijuana businesses from using broadcast media. However, employing these methods of marketing could have legal repercussions, since the Federal Communications Commission oversees the airwaves. And because marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, there is a distinct possibility that any 30-second sales pitch promoting weed during an episode of American Idol would create a high-frequency shit-storm that few are prepared to endure.
Perhaps one of the most ridiculous lines of regulation has to do with promotional bumper stickers. These items are considered illegal because a car brandishing a bumper sticker for “Moe’s Stoner Emporium” could travel within 1,000 feet of a restricted area, such as a school, and bring down the vicious hand of regulatory fury. This seemingly insane rule also applies to marijuana delivery vehicles pimped out with vinyl-wrapped decals.
When it comes to storefront signage, pot businesses are permitted to have a single 1,600-square-inch sign displaying the name of their company, but it cannot include marijuana-themed images, like a pot leaf, bong or any other paraphernalia. Retail reefer slingers are also forbidden from decorating their storefronts with weed-related imagery, as well as prohibited from featuring pot products in window displays.
Unfortunately, until the federal government finally repeals prohibition, ludicrous and inconsistent advertising regulations will exist within the statewide cannabis trade. However, since many associate marijuana with tobacco, simply because it can be smoked, even then the industry will be forced to fight to keep from being lopped into the same marketing restrictions as the tobacco companies. Ideally, most supporters of a taxed and regulated cannabis trade argue that marijuana companies should be allowed to advertise in a manner similar to the brewing industry.