If you haven’t heard, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) in their infinite wisdom voted unanimously to ban advertising for cannabis related businesses. Here are the basics of the ban:
- No grower, processor, dispensary, independent testing laboratory, or certifying provider may place or maintain, or cause to be placed or maintained, an advertisement for medical cannabis or medical cannabis products on:
(1) Radio, television, or a billboard;
(2) A print publication, unless at least 85 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 18 years of age or older, as determined by reliable and current audience composition data;
(3) Public property;
(4) A handbill, leaflet, or flyer directly handed, deposited, fastened, or otherwise distributed on:
(a) Public property; or
(b) Private property without the consent of the owner; or
(5) Any website, mobile application, social media, or other electronic communication that fails to verify that the user is at least 18 years of age.
- An advertisement for a grower, processor, dispensary, independent testing laboratory, or certifying provider may not make any statement that is false or misleading in any material way or is otherwise a violation of Commercial Law Article, §§ 13-301–13-320, Annotated Code of Maryland.
- All advertising for medical cannabis or medical cannabis products shall include:
(1) A statement that the product is for use only by a qualifying patient;
(2) A warning that there may be health risks associated with consumption of the medical cannabis or medical cannabis product; and
(3) Any other warnings required by the commission.
Why Ban Advertising on a $100 Million Dollar a Year Industry?
I have so many issues with this that I don’t even know where to begin. First, why would anyone ban advertising on a $100 million dollar a year industry? Sales in the first year of medical cannabis here in Maryland have exceeded $90 million dollars. There are currently over 50,000 legal cannabis patients in the state.
You would think the commission would want to reach as many perspective patients as possible.
More patients would also create more jobs in the industry, which is good for everyone. The ironic part of the story is that in the program’s infancy it was the growers, processors, dispensaries, and cannabis doctors that promoted the program.
The MMCC didn’t do much to raise awareness. Sure, they put up a website, and attended a few events, put on by others, I might add. It was the industry businesses that went out and hosted community events, town hall meetings, registration drives, and other industry events. While the MMCC was busy in court defending the way they issued industry licenses, these companies went to the people spreading the word and defending the program while building the legal patient community to what it is today.
We still do events to this day and I hear from people all the time that they had no idea there was a legal cannabis program in Maryland. More outreach needs to be done. There are still people suffering who would benefit from this program.
It is our duty to reach them, so they too can benefit from medical cannabis. How does this ban help us to reach and help these people?
How do you tell a business owner who is operating a legal business in a heavily regulated industry in Maryland that they can’t advertise? I see advertisements on television every day for prescription drugs that could kill you. You know the ones that come with a possibility of all those side effects ranging from mild anxiety to thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
A cannabis certification is given by a certified provider, so why the distinction between pharmaceuticals and a safe natural medicine? There are advertisements for alcohol on television and we know alcohol causes problems for a lot of people. Try to watch any sporting event on television without seeing a bunch of alcohol advertisements. They even have alcohol advertising all over the stadiums, so you see it during the game too. Alcohol kills people, cannabis does not.
If we’re using the logic of public safety, why are they still allowing peanut butter advertising? An average of 150 people die each year from peanut allergies. Cannabis has never killed anyone. Cannabis, safer that peanuts.
Let’s look at the website/ social media ban. Requiring verifying that the recipient or user is 18 years of age or older is good in theory, but what does it really do? Clicking a pop-up that asks the user to verify that they are 18 years of age or older doesn’t stop anyone from entering the site. Unless they click no by accident. There are far worse things on the internet than cannabis.
How Does this Help Patients, The Program, or The State?
The passing of this ban coupled with the recent requirement of patient ID cards for all patients has led me to question the board’s priorities.
The board should be working to increase awareness of Maryland’s program and making it easier for people to become legal cannabis patients. Instead they have hampered the industry from reaching more people in need, and they are making it more expensive for those people to become patients. The state’s legal medical cannabis program helps thousands of people live a better quality of life, and you would think they would want more people to know about and join the program.
Instead of putting up barriers for new patients, maybe the state should focus on doing something about the 45 days it is taking patients who register with the state to get a patient ID issued to them. The faster these people become patients the faster they have access to a fantastic life changing natural medicine and the faster they support local businesses.
Urbn Holistic is a medical cannabis evaluation clinic located in Baltimore. For an appointment or information on getting certified Call or text 410-314-9548. urbnholistic.com