While marijuana advertising might be acceptable and entirely legal under local state law, accepting such advertising presents substantial risk to a station. The rules have not been tested and further guidance from the Justice Department is important before broadcasters begin to accept this advertising.
While 20 states have made some uses of marijuana legal, the federal government has not. Stations and MVPDs lured by marijuana ad revenue in states that legalize it must ask themselves (and perhaps their counsel) whether the risk of federal enforcement outweighs the benefits of accepting ads from a new and growing industry. Accepting those ads raises other non-legal questions for stations to ponder, such as the impact of marijuana advertising on other advertisers and viewers.
Both TV and radio stations are learning that medical marijuana can give you a bad headache. However, everyone, including the Department of Justice, currently seems uncertain as to the long-term prognosis for stations that aired medical marijuana ads.
The Justice Department appears to be backtracking on medical marijuana, now saying only that it won’t prosecute individuals who use medical marijuana, but that dispensaries, even if set up under the color of state laws, are still illegal under federal law and subject to federal prosecution. Thus, broadcasters, as federal licensees, need to exercise extreme care in advertising such dispensaries.
Broadcasters don’t know it yet, but recent actions by the Department of Justice suggest that the federal government may be moving closer to raining on their upcoming license renewals. The reason? Medical marijuana advertising.