A new bill to be introduced in Michigan would potentially stop cannabis businesses from being able to advertise on billboards.
State Representative Mary Whiteford, a Republican based in Allegan County, is one of the co-sponsors of the bill, standing against cannabis billboards alongside Democratic State Representative Abdullah Hammoud out of Dearborn.
According to the argument these two are making about advertisements for legal cannabis, it is unsettling for folks to see those ads alongside busy roads, where people of all ages can see them.
“So I’m a grandma,” Whiteford said. “My granddaughter is six, and my grandsons are three and one. And, as I drive down the highway, I see these glorious, brightly colored billboards. As I look closer, it’s for marijuana.”
When it comes to this anti-cannabis rhetoric, the approach is nothing new. Despite the fact that many locales allowed alcohol billboards, the concept of cannabis advertisements in public startles some.
“There’s a lot of misinformation and also there’s not quite the full public acceptance of the cannabis industry right now,” said Stephen Linder of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association, a group that is working to change how people see cannabis.
Linder argues that the cannabis industry creates jobs and helps boost the economy of the state, something that was sorely needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We employ thousands of Michigan citizens. We are paying tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. So it is a true supply chain, manufacturing and retail industry and during the pandemic we were one of the industries because our products are also considered medicine so we were listed as one of the essential businesses.”
In response to the cannabis billboards allowed in the state of Michigan, Whiteford feels that cannabis adverts need to be treated the same way that tobacco is treated. Historically, cannabis has been treated as a far more serious crime than makes logical sense, as, ironically, a recent line of billboards from Jay Z’s new company explains.
“I think it’s a big problem. We can’t have tobacco on billboards, so why are we able to have marijuana on billboards?” said Whiteford.
“There is a very important distinction,” Linder says in response to that argument. “Tobacco is listed as a carcinogen, and it has to be properly labeled. Cannabis is not listed as a carcinogen. It is considered medicine, at least those products that pass the testing standards. And, most cannabis products are not smoked. Most cannabis products are ingested in the form of edibles.”
However, Linder does not feel antagonistic towards those skeptical of cannabis advertising, as he realizes in many ways, it is new and unexplored territory. He hopes that he can sit down with Whiteford as a representative of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association and try and work out a mutually beneficial compromise.
If such a compromise is not reached, the legislation is expected to be introduced next week. It is still unclear whether the measure will have enough support to change the law, but this is enough of a hot-button issue that cannabis protection groups are paying attention.