Despite the marijuana industry’s growth in states across the country, the recreational cannabis business climate is still being hamstrung by the federal government’s ambiguous position on the issue.
One of Denver’s major TV stations, ABC affiliate KMGH-Channel 7, had been weighing the idea of running the nation’s first commercials for recreational marijuana. Citing muddy federal regulations regarding such ads, however, the station has decided to put the idea on hold indefinitely, The Cannabist reports.
The station had been considering 15-second spots for two companies: the Green Solution, a chain of recreational dispensaries, and Neos, a hash-oil vape pen retailer. Neither of the ads would have displayed or specifically referenced marijuana, and would have aired late, as a lead-in to “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
The ABC affiliate had initially decided to treat the ads like it would those for hard alcohol. Brad Remington, vice-president and general manager of the station, stated that “after careful deliberations, we have elected to accept ads from what is now a legal business in Colorado and apply some of the same restrictions and standards that we do for similar adult products, like hard liquor.” Remington placed the cannabis ads in the history of changing social values being reflected on TV: “In the old days, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke slept in separate beds; now we have Viagra ads. Things evolve.”
But after some more ‘careful deliberations’ by parent company E.W. Scripps’s lawyers, the station was forced to pull an about-face. A message from the firm stated that it is “proud to be a company of free speech and open expression, but [it has] concerns about the lack of clarity around federal regulations that govern broadcast involving such ads.”
A stark contrast with the confidence Remington had earlier displayed, stating, “I don’t mind being first. We’re being really smart about it.”
The move reflects the concern among many in the industry that cannabis ads aired on federally-licensed airwaves could be met by a vigorous legal response: TV stations or their owners could be prosecuted for aiding or abetting an illegal activity.
KUSA-Channel 9 head Mark Cornetta had already ruled out such plans, but noted that the situation would be different “if the federal government decides to legalize marijuana.” Perhaps the day will come when the Mad Men of the cannabis era will have their heyday.
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall