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SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Advertising Act would allow state-legal marijuana ads on TV and…

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SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Advertising Act would allow state-legal marijuana ads on TV and radio

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)

There is actually a North Carolina gospel music radio station, 1390 AM, with the call sign WEED.


New Mexico legalized recreational marijuana use in June 2021, with legal sales beginning in April 2022. A U.S. senator from that state noticed that even though the product was now legal on a state level, sellers still couldn’t advertise on television or radio there.

That’s because television and radio stations require a license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to operate. Since it’s a federal agency, they have banned marijuana ads on television and radio, since marijuana remains illegal on a federal level.

State-legal marijuana businesses can still advertise on other media formats like the internet and print newspapers, which don’t require similar FCC licenses.

What the bill does

The SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Advertising Act would explicitly allow state-legal marijuana ads on television and radio.

The ad would be required to state that: “This product has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.”

Such advertisements could also only be run on programming where 70 percent or more of the audience is older than 21, generally the minimum age for possession or use in states which have legalized the drug.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on July 26 as S. 4622, by Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that if a product is legal on a state level, and it aims to make money in our free market system, then it should be able to spread the word and potentially increase sales through television and radio advertisements.

“As more states enact common-sense cannabis legislation, it’s crucial that radio and TV stations can accept advertising without fear of losing their license,” Sen. Luján said in a press release. “As Chair of the [Senate Commerce Committee’s] Communications Subcommittee, which oversees the FCC, I’m proud to introduce this legislation with the support of broadcasters across New Mexico and the country.”

“Due to outdated government regulations, only local radio and television broadcasters face legal exposure for advertising cannabis products permitted under state law,” National Association of Broadcaster President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said in a separate press release. “The [bill] would finally level the playing field and create necessary regulatory certainty for broadcasters.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that there’s little controversy about banning some other products from radio and television advertising. Cigarette advertising on television and radio has been illegal since 1971. (Watch the last cigarette television advertisement, for Virginia Slims cigarettes on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carsonhere.)

And that’s for a product which is actually legal. Marijuana remains illegal on a federal level.

“The [bill’s] provisions essentially allow Big Tobacco’s Joe Camel back on TV, this time for marijuana,” Luke Niforatos, Executive Vice President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), wrote in an opinion column for the Albuquerque Journal, the largest newspaper in Sen. Luján’s home state of New Mexico.

The bill’s provisions “are weak, even compared to the safeguards adopted in other states that have legalized marijuana,” Niforatos continued. “Connecticut and New York allow marijuana advertisements to be shown only to audiences where 90% of the members are older than 21, but the [bill] proposed a lower limit of 70%. That threshold is also below the limits adopted in Massachusetts and California, and the industry standard for alcohol advertisements.”

Odds of passage

The SAFE Advertising Act has attracted one cosponsor, a Democrat: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) . It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

In June, the House Appropriations Committee passed a larger bill which included an identical provision. However, it has not yet received a vote in the full House.

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This article was written by GovTrack Insider staff writer Jesse Rifkin.

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