Attend any marijuana event or festival in Santa Monica, or anywhere in California for that matter, and you will leave with a free something or other, be it a t-shirt, tote bag, bumper sticker or hat. They all have some company’s cannabis logo emblazoned on them, and everybody loves their weed freebies. A new bill under consideration could change all that, and branded pot merchandise may go extinct.
Marijuana in Santa Monica
Cannabis is legal in Santa Monica, both medicinally and recreationally. You can order an online marijuana delivery in Santa Monica. However, rules and regulations are continually evolving as new issues arise and the state mandates new laws for them. Currently, Senate Bill 162 is under legislative consideration. Introduced by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), the bill seeks to ban all state-licensed marijuana businesses from brand advertising on merchandise.
If passed, no cannabis company will be able to advertise “through the use of branded merchandise, including, but not limited to, clothes, weed hats, and other goods with the product’s name or logo.” The bill is an attempt to restrict children’s exposure to marijuana advertising. However, experts within the industry warn that such legislative overreach may cause more damage than it is worth.
Last month, the bill passed through the Senate unanimously, with 40 votes in favor and nil against. Last week, it passed 12-0 through the Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee. It is now up for debate at the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but with everyone seemingly in favor of it, it is not farfetched to believe the bill will become official law shortly.
Weed advertising has been a controversial issue as the State of California attempts to create a well-regulated, legal marketplace for its multibillion-dollar pot industry. Advertising concerns revolve primarily around the affect they might have on young children. The state aims to restrict marketing influence on minors so as not to encourage them to become weed users.
To this end, the state has already restricted canna-business from using child-friendly language, music, cartoons, shapes, and even colors commonly associated with youthful appeal in their advertising efforts. Additionally, weed businesses may not operate or advertise anywhere near youth centers, daycares, or schools, and pot advertisements may only air to adult audiences.
Senate Bill 162’s general ‘advertising’ ban could empower regulatory agencies to shut down marijuana merchandizing completely and encourage unwarranted enforcement.
There are currently restrictions in place for branded merchandise already. As the law stands now, companies may only distribute branded goods at cannabis festivals, events, trade shows, or other venues where attendees must be older than 21-years of age. Senate Bill 162 will override these allowances and prohibit all branded merchandise entirely.
No More Marijuana Advertising on T-Shirts and Weed Hats
This law would not apply to non-commercial or non-profit companies. Only those with state-issued cannabis licenses would have to comply. The proposal is creating controversy, as most oppose it vehemently. Even the largest marijuana coalitions are voicing concerns. Banning small businesses from branding, marketing, and advertising themselves is frankly outrageous.
Small businesses would find themselves hamstrung materially and unable to compete in the cannabis marketplace. As such, they are firmly against this proposal and pledge to continue lobbying lawmakers to ensure they understand exactly how its ramifications will harm entrepreneurs. Bill advocates simply state that it would minimize marijuana advertising to children, thereby protecting them.
It is not immediately apparent if the bill’s merchandise restrictions have any limitations. In other states, canna-employees wear their branded T-shirts and weed hats with pride. People receive generous freebies of cannabis apparel at gatherings and events. Under the broad language of this law, even staff t-shirts and branded bags could get companies in legal trouble.
In Washington and Colorado, for example, restrictions have clear definitions, even if they are similar in nature. State-licensed companies may use labeled apparel for staff use or internal branding. They may not sell them to consumers or give them away freely. Strangely, other paraphernalia, such as storage solutions, bongs, and pipes, do not fall under “branded merchandise” and licensees can sell them.
Some consider it odd that alcohol and tobacco advertising has considerably more leeway under the proposed new law for cannabis. These substances kill hundreds of thousands every year. Alcohol, in particular, has a devastating effect on the youth, and 90 percent of lung cancer victims smoke tobacco. There are some restrictions and rules for tobacco and alcohol advertising, but it remains permissible.
The social conversation is swaying against Senate Bill 162. Most consider is a blatant attempt to restrict even the most basic right to commercial free speech, despite the state having no real interest in doing so. In fact, hindering small businesses and marijuana in Santa Monica will have a negative impact on tax revenues. There should be some regulations where minors are concerned, but this bill may go too far.