• Banned on Billboards . . . Cannabis Stores “Adopt” Colorado Highways

    After Colorado legalized marijuana, cannabis outlets began sponsoring official signs on public right of way that acknowledge litter clean-up.

    Meanwhile, Colorado bans cannabis dispensaries from buying billboard ads:

    “. . . it shall be unlawful for any Retail Marijuana Establishment to engage in Advertising that is visible to members of the public from any street, sidewalk, park or other public place, including Advertising utilizing any of the following media: any billboard or other outdoor general Advertising device; any sign mounted on a vehicle, any hand-held or other portable sign . . .”

    Olivia Mannix, founder of the Denver-based CannaBrands marketing agency puts it this way: “We can’t really have outdoor billboards, but we can have our names on these Colorado DOT signs.  Cannabis marketers have to be extra creative and strategic in all of their marketing efforts” due to restrictions on advertising.

    Starbuds dispensaries tout community involvement on their website: “Starbuds is proud to partner with the Adopt-A-Highway program in Colorado. This initiative is an effective way to help keep our roadways and environments clean.”

    Likewise, LivWell Enlightened Health showcases a long list of community partnerships, including Adopt-A-Highway.

    Colorado DOT says it has some 160 Adopt A Highway signs; about 80 are marijuana related, Reilly Capps reported in Rooster.

    The manager of the anti-litter program in Colorado says Adopt A Highway volunteers pick up trash along non-Interstate roadways. Sponsors pay sign-installation fees and up to $475 a month for professional crews to clean up Interstates.

    “Sponsored areas are recognized with an acknowledgement sign displaying the sponsor’s name, logo or both. Acknowledgement signs are not intended to be an advertising medium, or any kind of forum for public speech or political opinion,” says Colorado DOT.

    While the state insists that paid-sponsorship signs are not advertising (which is not allowed on the right of way), Colorado’s website makes this sales pitch:

    Colorado Sponsor A Highway® Program

    Colorado Average Daily Traffic counts (ADTs) reach up to 261,000 cars every day on some of Colorado’s busiest roadways. With the average vehicle carrying 1.8 passengers, businesses that purchase a sponsorship in these areas are likely to receive upwards of 470,000 impressions every single day. That’s the lowest cost per thousand (CPM) of any other outdoor media!

    Insider shares a couple points:

    1. It is a bit hypocritical for the state to block cannabis dispensaries from billboard advertising while offering sponsorship recognition to weed stores on official signs on public roadways.
    2. Furthermore, this irony in Colorado illustrates the difficulty of regulating messages on public signs on the highway right of way.

    States tried to block Klan groups from sponsoring Adopt A Highway signs, but the courts sided with Klan groups on free speech grounds.

    The California Legislature should remember this point when considering an ill-advised bill (AB-1405) to push the state into the billboard business by selling rights to display commercial ads on traffic signs on public highways.

     

     


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    One Comment

    1. Alan Clubb says:

      John,
      In Colorado, marijuana advertising is controlled by the rules of the Marijuana Enforcement Division of Law Enforcement.

      The Sponsorship Signs are regulated and allowed by the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD. The State of Colorado has adopted the MUTCD as it is required to do with a state supplement. CDOT does not have a dog in the hunt (so to speak :)) on the issue of “advertising” we just enforce the rules on signs within the right-of-way.

      Advertisement or the lack of it in the right-of-way is controlled by the requirements of the MUTCD. California is unlikely to be successful even if they pass a bill.

      Excellent newsletter by the way.

      I am sure you have seen this: https://oaaa.org/StayConnected/NewsArticles/Legislative/tabid/323/id/5191/Default.aspx