Is it permissible to run an advertisement for a marijuana product on television in a state that has legalized both the medical and recreational use of the drug?
One Denver, Colo. TV station has decided not to find out after considering running a commercial for Neos, a vaporizer and cannabis oil company. The ABC affiliate initially approved a 15-second spot from the company to air prior to Jimmy Kimmel Live!
As required by Colorado law, more than 70 percent of the show’s audience must be at least 21 years old before the spot could be aired. Cannabrand, the agency that worked with Neos, ensured that the commercial did not feature any drug imagery (such as the vape pen or the marijuana oil used in it), instead it focused on young adults hiking, playing guitars, and hanging out at a club.
But concerned about federal oversight, the station declined to air the Neos “Adventurous Life” ad, and any commercials related to pot. Although the medicinal use of marijuana is legal in 23 states, with recreational use decriminalized in four states and Washington, D.C., marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
“The airways are federally regulated, and since cannabis is still considered an illegal substance federally, that was where the conflict came into play,” Jennifer DeFalco, creative director and founder of Cannabrand, an agency devoted entirely to cannabis, told AdAge.
A spokesperson for the KMGH affiliate said it now intends to wait for a clear signal from the feds before running a marijuana ad. “[I]f there are changes or more clarity provided to the media industry to let the industry know one way or another, rather than having uncertainty about it,” then the station would consider airing a marijuana ad, Valerie Miller said.
To watch the Neos “Adventurous Life” commercial, click here.
Why it Matters: The question of whether a station could air an ad in a state that has legalized marijuana remains unanswered—for now. As the number of jurisdictions decriminalizing the drug continues to increase, the issue will undoubtedly arise again. “We’re interested to see how this all unfolds, as this is unchartered territory for the industry,” Cannabrand said in a statement, adding that the agency hopes to work with Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division to “try to find a way where we can get more distinct guidelines about what kind of television advertising we can and cannot do.”