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Can Marijuana Businesses Advertise in Surrounding States?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 17, 2015 11:01 AM

If you're an entrepreneur in a state that has legalized recreational marijuana sales, you want to get the word out about your product. And you might not want to limit your market to just your state. After all, pot users live everywhere, and if they live in a nearby state that doesn't allow legal weed, they might be eager to give your dispensary a visit.

But hold on -- before you start placing newspaper ads in neighboring states or firing off TV or radio spots aimed at out-of-staters, you should know that even states that allow marijuana sales have restrictions on how marijuana can be advertised.

State Line Ad Limits

State laws permitting marijuana sales also contain restrictions on who can purchase, the amount that can be sold, and how retailers may advertise. And advertising regulations apply to both in-state and out-of-state ads. For example, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has the power to "regulate and prohibit any advertising by manufacturers, processors, wholesalers or retailers of marijuana items by the medium of newspapers, letters, billboards, radio or otherwise."

When advertising in other states, Washington's Liquor and Cannabis Board advises marijuana retailers to "follow state law as it pertains to advertising, in most states, illegal products." And the Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division expressly prohibits advertisements targeting out-of-state persons. Before placing any ads, you should check your state's marijuana statutes and know how they regulate advertising in and to neighboring states.

Postal Prohibitions

If you've gotten this far in the weed biz, you know that marijuana is still banned under federal law. And while the feds may stay out of the day-to-day operations of state-sanctioned pot shops, there are federal regulations that may impact how those shops can advertise.

Just this month, the U.S. Postal Service warned newspapers in Oregon and Washington that it is illegal mail papers containing ads for recreational or medical marijuana. So ads either on federal property or even carried by federal employees are probably prohibited. No word yet on how authorities will regulate ads on federally-allocated radio airwaves, but the feds have gone after radio pot ads in the past.

So consider your marijuana marketing strategy carefully, especially if you're trying to expand your out-of-state clientele.

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