by Dawn Sciarrino, Sciarrino & Shubert PLLC
More than half the states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws permitting marijuana use to greater or lesser degrees. Arizona is among the states permitting medical marijuana; a handful of states, now including Arizona’s neighbors California and Nevada, permit the sale of pot for recreational use. According to Forbes, legal marijuana sales in 2016 amounted to more than $6.7 billion, an approximate 30% growth from 2015.
Such a large and booming industry would seem to be a tempting target for broadcasters seeking new advertising revenue. But unfortunately, the risks of doing so are likely to outweigh the potential gain. It is important to remember that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Broadcasters, as federal licensees, should think long and hard before advertising any product whose sale and possession is a federal offense.
Although under the previous administration, the Department of Justice generally took a hands-off approach to states permitting marijuana sales, continuing forbearance cannot be counted on. The FCC has not yet ruled on how advertising a drug criminalized by federal law would affect a broadcaster’s qualifications as a licensee; absent agency guidance, any station accepting marijuana advertising could well be putting its license at risk.
Sciarrino & Shubert PLLC provides a free hotline to Arizona Broadcasters Association members. Any Association member may call for answers to a wide range of legal and regulatory questions dealing with broadcasting issues, including advertising policies, political time rules, promotions, lotteries, EAS, and a host of other concerns.