Rhode Island retailer flouts marijuana advertising ban with billboards

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Several southern Massachusetts marijuana retailers use billboards in Rhode Island to advertise along a busy stretch of Interstate 95.

Rhode Island cannabis retailers, meanwhile, can’t rent their own billboards space because of a state regulation that explicitly forbids Rhode Island-licensed retailers from advertising on billboards.

Mother Earth Wellness, whose medical and recreational store in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is next to I-95 and a few miles from Massachusetts, is advertising with its own billboards on the busy interstate, according to Providence TV station WPRI.

Mother Earth Wellness owner Joe Pakuris testified about the rule to a state legislative hearing last month.

“Rhode Island is currently allowing Massachusetts medical and recreational dispensaries advertising capabilities on billboards throughout each and every Rhode Island highway, (and) Massachusetts dispensaries are permitted to advertise in Rhode Island local television, print and even the jumbotron at the Rhode Island Civic Center,” Pakuris told state lawmakers in April, according to WPRI.

“Ironically, Rhode Island dispensaries are not.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Business Regulation said officials were evaluating the billboard’s “compliance relative to current law.”

Government officials are working to establish a state cannabis commission.

Last week, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill that would let the Department of Business Regulation set up new advertising rules.

The state Senate is now considering the bill.