Weekly Wrapup: Denver Medical Marijuana Advertising Ban + LA Dispensaries on the Ropes

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Say goodbye to the eye-catching posters at bus stops, massive billboards near major roads and cardboard signs on street corners in Denver advertising super-cheap eighths.

Last week, the Denver City Council gave initial approval to a proposal that would ban most forms of “in-your-face” outdoor MMJ advertising. The council is expected to give the final green light to the measure today.

Some Colorado dispensaries and medical cannabis organizations are up in arms over the measure, saying it will hurt smaller cannabis centers that can’t afford other forms of advertising and puts unfair restrictions on the industry.

They do have a point. The little dispensary located a few blocks from a busy thoroughfare will have a much harder time drawing foot traffic. And ad restrictions will create yet another entry in the long list of regulations and rules dispensaries must follow.

But let’s be honest: Like it or not, many people view the whole medical marijuana industry as a joke, in part because of the prevalence of ads that seem to promote getting high over easing pain.

People with that perception have a point, too. How else do you expect them to feel when they are bombarded with signs that resemble happy hour ads for bars?

The MMJ industry in Denver has done a poor job of policing itself on this issue and is in large part to blame for this ban. Unfortunately, the dispensaries that utilized these forms of advertising in a responsible way (by, say, promoting their wellness services or the medicinal aspects of their marijuana) will be punished as well.

This should serve as a lesson for the rest of the industry: If you don’t follow responsible business practices, your city or state might force you to.

On that note we turn to Los Angeles, where public perception played a big role in a recent move by city officials to ban dispensaries entirely. As we wrote about last week, medical marijuana supporters and professionals are exploring various ways to thwart the ban, from lawsuits to a voter referendum. But those efforts won’t be enough to delay the onset of the ban in early September. Many of the 800 to 1,000 dispensaries currently operating will likely adhere to the ban and shut down, as they face the possibility of steep fines and prosecution. But some have indicated they will stay open and test the government’s enforcement strategy.

As we’ve seen in both Denver and Los Angeles, winning the public perception battle is a big part of the war.

Other top stories in MMJ Business Daily last week:

MMJ in Arkansas Could Open Up the South

Guest Column: 3 Rules Every Dispensary Must Follow

Medical Marijuana Inc. Reports Profit

Denver Dispensary Owner Indicted