Marijuana advertising bill hearing highlights confusion over existing law | Montana News

A hearing this week on a monthly bill to prohibit marijuana advertising disclosed a large gulf concerning understandings of the state’s current ad policy for the industry.

On Wednesday morning, the Residence Business enterprise and Labor Committee satisfied to consider Dwelling Monthly bill 351, which would efficiently ban most cannabis promoting in Montana. In its recent sort, the bill would prohibit a cannabis business enterprise from using outside signage and billboards and any use of a dispensary’s manufacturer name or emblem in print, Tv, radio, or sponsorship. In keeping with present law, HB 351 enables for a person exception: listings in online directories.

The hearing illuminated a lack of settlement about no matter if current law that prohibits the promoting of “marijuana and marijuana products” applies to a brand’s identify and symbol.

If handed, HB 351 would restrict Montana’s around 400 dispensaries’ ability to boost on their own, and reduce media companies from advertising advertisement place to hashish corporations. Representatives of the hashish marketplace contend that it would also impact customers’ ability to discern in between organizations, consequence in less income statewide, and produce fewer tax profits for the point out.

In Montana’s initially 12 months of recreational sales — which started on Jan. 1, 2022 — vendors marketed $210 million of adult-use hashish and nearly $94 million of medical marijuana. Collectively, those people gross sales produced about $46 million in tax revenue for the point out.

The committee heard testimony from two proponents of the bill, the two reps of the anti-recreational-marijuana corporation Harmless Montana. More than 20 men and women related with the hashish marketplace and media companies spoke against it.

The listening to became remarkable as marketplace associates accused the bill of infringing on their legal rights and probably resulting in significant damages to their firms.

“We did not do a very great work of defining and together with ‘brand’ [in the original bill],” sponsor Rep. Seekins-Crowe, R-Billings, instructed Montana Absolutely free Press following the hearing.

“This is what happens a whole lot of moments heading from creating the costs into rulemaking,” she included. “I do not think it would’ve been this kind of a problem if all of a unexpected we didn’t see adverts on lavatory stalls, on benches. Not just signals but sides of properties painted.”

Brand names VS. Products and solutions

All through the hearing, Seekins-Crowe framed the invoice as a return to the intention of the 2020 voter initiative that legalized adult-use cannabis income in Montana.

“In a feeling, it is a clear-up invoice. Home Bill 351 essentially is taking us back to what was promised to us in an initiative for recreational cannabis, and that was no marketing,” she said.

Nonetheless opponents of the invoice argued — and regulations enacted by the Division of Earnings state — that the 2020 voter initiative, as very well as the 2021 Legislature’s subsequent framework monthly bill, Household Invoice 701 prohibit businesses only from promoting unique strains of cannabis or cannabis products, not the names and logos of the models that provide them.

Department of Income policies distinguish concerning promoting a marijuana “brand,” i.e., a dispensary or company name, and advertising and marketing precise goods.

That rule reads: “A licensee might endorse its enterprise and market place its brand but could not market cannabis or marijuana merchandise besides in digital advertising.”

The Department of Revenue’s Hashish Handle Division, which oversees the state’s cannabis programs, declined to offer comment for this story.


The invoice drew help from two representatives of Secure Montana: Steve Zabawa and Scott Reichner, a former condition agent.

The two males framed current marijuana marketing — such as permitted listings in on the net directories — as a social detriment that will “grow extra people.”

Zabawa more claimed that the Division of Earnings “did not have the right” to enact its existing manufacturer marketing rule.

OPPONENTS CITE Organization AND Ethical Problems

The bill’s opponents flagged a handful of worries.

Quite a few argued that it would harm their base line, bolster an illicit sector and lower the state’s tax income from the rewarding market. Some others argued it infringed on their freedoms and 1st Amendment rights.

Pepper Petersen, president of the Montana Hashish Guild, stated he was “assured in excess of and over again it’s cannabis products that we’re not going to be advertising” by lawmakers very last session. “Obviously we want to permit folks know that if you are heading to acquire marijuana you need to have to purchase it at a person of these accredited, controlled, lawful retailers.” He described HB 351 as a “cartel [illicit market] empowerment bill.”

Glenn Broughton, operator of Starrbuds dispensary in Missoula, pointed out that enterprises have invested thousands of pounds in out of doors signage that the new legislation would power them to get down.

“You just cannot even make this stuff up. This monthly bill is very little brief of a takings,” he claimed.

Kate Cholewa, of the Montana Cannabis Industry Affiliation, argued that the new policy would mostly harm companies that abide by the rules.

“You can perform whack-a-mole and the only people who suffer are people today who adhere to the legislation anyway,” she explained.

In a short interview soon after the hearing, Seekins-Crowe reiterated that she’s open up to strategies from the market. She even further defined that she’s begun collaborating with her colleagues, together with Rep. Katie Sullivan, D-Missoula, “so we can arrive up with a option below that does work a lot greater.”