Over the last year we have seen Washington’s fledgling marijuana industry start to take flight. Growers started harvesting crops and marijuana retailers started opening in July. The Daily News covered the opening of the first marijuana store in the area and there was a line of customers waiting to buy.
Some months later, a few more local marijuana retailers have opened their doors and the price of what they sell has started to drop as market forces begin to take effect.
But another aspect of the discussion recently walked through our front door when some of these local retailers approached us about buying advertising.
The question for The Daily News was “Should they publish marijuana ads or not?”
The short answer is yes, Daily News will begin accepting ads for marijuana products and here’s why.
Marijuana, at least in Washington, has become akin to tobacco or alcohol in the sense that it’s now a heavily taxed and regulated product — rather than an illegal one. The Washington State Liquor Control Board, in charge of supervising marijuana sales in the state, has also put forth very specific guidelines for advertising.
The guidelines, as they stand today, strike us as fairly reasonable. They focus on keeping the advertising from appealing to children, specifically by banning ads that use cartoon figures or other caricatures meant to appeal to minors. Signage outside marijuana retailers is limited in size and must be kept at least 1,000 feet away from schools. All ads must contain specifically worded warning messages about the negative health effects of cannabis, that developing a dependency is possible and the product is legal for use by adults only.
It’s all very similar to the warnings we’ve seen published on tobacco products for decades.
Aside from the legalities, Daily News also considered the moralities. Should The Daily News allow advertisers to promote a product that has known negative health effects?
Marijuana, of course, is hardly alone in this class of products. Watch any televised sports event and you’ll likely be treated to numerous commercials for liquor and beer. Most of the magazines you’ll see on the rack at the grocery store still carry ads for cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Advertising for products that can produce negative effects when abused is nothing new.
It was ultimately our opinion that our readers are sufficiently educated and able to make their own decisions as to what they will and won’t buy. Daily News doesn’t think marijuana ads will change this.
While marijuana’s intoxicating effects have been known for centuries, there hasn’t been a lot of consistency in how it has been viewed by the public and the law. Legal in most U.S. states through the 1800s, marijuana — along with alcohol — was successfully targeted by prohibitionists in the early part of the 20th century. While the nation did a fairly quick about-face on banning alcohol, marijuana remained stigmatized and illegal.
Washington and Oregon are among the states where voters have since opted to return it to the mainstream.
Daily News Editorial Board opposed legalization before Washington’s vote in 2012, but we’re also believers in popular sovereignty. We know we have readers who enjoy it and would be receptive to advertising that lets them to know where to buy it and who has the best prices.
All marijuana ads Daily News accepts will go through a review process that will extend to the publisher’s office. The ads will be required to meet both our standards and the Liquor Control Board’s standards prior to publication.