Medical Marijuana Industry Group pushes plan for outdoor MMJ ad ban
"It is like one of the councilwomen pointed out: There are commercials for Ambien on all the time," Coleman goes on. "Just because someone isn't using a therapeutic method to treat their ailment -- just because they aren't doing it now doesn't mean that with some level of awareness, they might want to talk to their physician about it. A citywide ban runs a risk of creating a stigma. It says, 'We are uncomfortable with the industry altogether.'That's not good for patients. It is a slippery slope."
Ortega says she would help push a citywide ban if the industry backed such action. However, she admits she's unsure of its legality from a First Amendment standpoint.
In the Denver Post, MMIG member Norton Arbelaez implied that there wouldn't be any free speech grounds for challenging any ban on medical marijuana ads. Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, he is quoted as saying, it isn't protected under the First Amendment.
Free speech attorney David Lane maintains that Arbalaez's argument is completely wrong.
"It is protected free speech," he says. "Just because something is illegal doesn't mean we can't talk about it. You are allowed to discuss how to make a bomb and you can discuss -- if you are going to make a bomb -- where you can plant it so it does the most damage."
But that doesn't mean a ban couldn't be instituted. Lane notes that existing laws would support limited bans -- and free speech in commercial advertising receives slightly less protection than political free speech. He refers to a ban on TV cigarette ads as an example.
Other cities have taken action against MMJ advertising, including San Francisco, which requires ads to note that the medical ganja being advertised is only for registered patients, and Boulder, which bars things like "happy hours" and "back to school specials".
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical Marijuana Industry Group decries feds' Cali crackdown, touts Colorado regs (VIDEO)."