California Bill Seeks to Ban Branded Cannabis Merchandise

Photo by DJ Native Sun Courtesy of HT Shop

A lot of weed design artists are wondering if their services will soon not be needed, or worse, banned, if California Senate Bill 162 is approved. The bill seeks to impose restrictions on marketing, labeling and even the shape of a pot leaf on products, in an effort to reduce its attractiveness to the under-21 crowd.

The measure is one of several moving through the California legislature that seeks to keep cannabis out of the hands of children.

The bill would prevent businesses from advertising through branded merchandise, “including, but not limited to, clothing, hats, or other merchandise with the name or logo of the product.”

“This is all about making sure, in the context of the legalization of marijuana, that you don’t end up inadvertently leading so many of our young people into drug abuse,” said the bill’s author, Senator Ben Allen, a Democrat representing Hollywood.

California already has done a lot to safeguard children.

It bans marijuana advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers or playgrounds, and it prohibits the sort of manipulative ads once used by the tobacco industry to get kids to smoke, like the infamous Joe Camel.

Cannabis companies say the bill’s provisions are an unfair attack on what is an already highly regulated industry.

“We are in no way trying to facilitate the access of minors [to marijuana]. We would just like regulations that make sense. The way that they’ve done this doesn’t make any sense for the industry,” Nicole Syzdek, an associate at intellectual property law firm, Evoke Law, told the Recorder.

Supporters of the bill, which include the American Academy of Pediatrics, California, say they want to make weed less visible to children by ensuring they are exposed to a minimal amount of marijuana advertising.

Rand Martin, a lobbyist representing Caliva, a San Jose-based dispensary, said the measure, however well intentioned, applies an inconsistent standard.

“You can tell Caliva you can’t sell branded merchandise, but that’s not going to stop a kid from going to the local surf shop and buying a T-shirt that says, ‘Trust me I’m stoned,'” Martin says.

“When it comes to merchandise, I would say anything that is explicitly targeting children is a really bad idea,” said Adrian Sedlin, chief executive of Canndescent. “As a socially responsible provider of product I would never design anything that resonated with kids.”

But Sedlin argues the cannabis industry is held to different standard than other regulated substances, like alcohol, when it comes to merchandising.

Restrictions on broadcast, radio, print and digital advertising make it difficult to communicate pot’s benefits compared with other products intended for adult use.

“Regulators should understand what they’re creating is an industry that will be making money, that will be looking to reach the public,” Sedlin said. “Invariably what that means, if the traditional channels are not allowed, new ones will pop up.”

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