Proposed cannabis billboard ban is rejected by Arizona lawmakers

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Monday May 24, Arizona lawmakers dismissed the idea of imposing restrictions on advertising cannabis, simply because such restrictions are not in place for tobacco and liquor products.

As per the legal language contained in HB 2809, advertising cannabis which was officially legalized with the passing of Proposition 207 on billboards should be forbidden. 

Specifically, the proposed bill aimed to ban cannabis billboard advertising within 1,000 feet of any church, childcare facility, public park or private school; if the billboard is positioned in line of sight.

Had HB 2809 been approved, any cannabis advertising billboard would need to be taken down within 30 days of the law being effectuated. 

Democratic lawmakers were not pleased with suggested ban on cannabis retailer sponsorship

When lawmakers introduced HB 2809, the implementation of an outright ban on cannabis retailers sponsoring artistic, athletic, music and any “other social or cultural event” was suggested. This proposed ban was met with fury and concern by numerous Democratic lawmakers.

Something else that would have been banned if HB 2809 was approved is the sponsoring or underwriting of any entry fee or team in an event. The primary goal of this proposed ban was to restrict the visibility of cannabis in billboard advertising campaigns, while permitting wholesale promotion of alcohol.

The legislation was approved by the House in February with just two dissenting votes. Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix recently told colleagues that she agreed with the previous vote.

“The school teacher in me absolutely has to vote ‘yes’. We need to protect our kids,” said Marsh.

Senator doesn’t have problem with signage and labeling requirements

Another State Senator, Sen. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, noted that she agreed with the fact that the legislation was House-approved back in February.

“However, the business woman in me also feels that it’s very unfair of this legislature to pick winners and losers,” Otondo explained to reporters, adding that she is not opposed to certain signage and labeling rules.

For example, Otondo is not against the idea of displaying warnings to safeguard people below the age of 21 and pregnant or breastfeeding females from buying/using the drug.

“We all want to protect our children. But the minute we begin to say an industry cannot do sponsorships then we are picking winners and losers,” she said.

Furthermore, the bill would have made it illegal to advertise a picture of a cannabis leaf or bud. 

The Arizona Constitution affirms that voter-approved laws can be changed with a three-fourths vote if it helps to advance the original law in some way.

The measure gained 18 supporting votes. However, based on the Arizona Constitution, it needed to gain 23 votes in the 30-strong Senate.