Medical Marijuana Industry Group pushes plan for outdoor MMJ ad ban
If the Medical Marijuana Industry Group has its way, there'll be a citywide ban on outdoor medical marijuana advertising in Denver.
And with the idea for this proposal currently floating around city council, MMIG might just get its wish.
The concept originated in Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega's office. According to Ortega, the initial draft of her resolution was intended to ban outdoor advertisements like billboards, sign twirlers and sandwich boards within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares and parks.
To help craft her plan, Ortega asked several industry groups, including the Cannabis Business Alliance and the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, to bring their notions to the table. "I didn't know who to be talking with, so I relied on them to help me identify who the individuals were that needed to be at the table," she says.
Ortega says a group of about a half-dozen people met on at least two or three occasions. The draft that emerged was authored by Denver's city attorney based on existing city tobacco advertising bans. But at the last meeting, Ortega says MMIG director Michael Elliot brought up the idea of a citywide ban.
"I said, 'Now you are talking about a complete different intent,'" Ortega recalls. She remembers telling Elliott, "'What I am willing to do is: if you all come together in agreement and want this, I will move this forward. But that is up to you.'" No agreement was reached, she says.
Then, at the last council committee meeting, Ortega was discussing her original proposal when she says Elliot brought his citywide ban proposal before the entire city council. "The only issue before council was the draft bill," she stresses. "That is the one I am willing to move forward with now."
In a statement shared with Westword, Elliot argues that the proposal for a citywide ban is better than a less sweeping prohibition because it doesn't play into the whole "we must protect the children" approach that the U.S. Attorney has taken to shutting down MMCs within 1,000 feet of schools.
According to Elliott, the council's real problem is not that the ads target children, but that the 98.25 percent of Coloradans who do not have a medical marijuana license are subjected to them. He also expresses fear that should a ban like the one Ortega first proposed is approved, dispensaries near parks could be recipients of federal closure letters.
"As it stands, even our biggest allies on city council remain frustrated with sign wavers and outdoor advertisements for $20 1/8's," he writes. "Such advertisements unite opposition to medical marijuana, undermine our support, and are largely responsible for the banning of MMJ businesses in Fort Collins and other jurisdictions. As a community, we should decide whether these advertisements are doing more harm than good. Perhaps the best approach would be 'out of sight, out of mind.'"
But Shawn Coleman of the Cannabis Business Alliance doesn't see it that way. The ban within 1,000 feet of schools makes sense in that it is specifically focuses on one demographic, he believes. Besides, supporting the most limited plan is preferable in his mind, since the council could have enacted a ban without input from groups like his.
In his view, a citywide ban "would harm the small businesses trying to do the right thing. You've got smaller operations who are off major thoroughfares and not in big locations for a reason. They've got a few small signs out and they need that ability to let people know where they are."
He also thinks a citywide ban stigmatizes the industry further and doesn't help to legitimize what medical marijuana providers are doing for patients.
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