State legislators in California are considering a bill that would prohibit legally licensed marijuana growers, producers and dispensaries from using promotional products to advertise their businesses.
Senate Bill 162, authored by state Sen. Ben Allen, would prevent cannabis businesses from advertising “through the use of branded merchandise, including, but not limited to, clothing, hats, or other merchandise with the name or logo of the product.”
Last month, the state Senate passed the bill in a 40-0 vote. Currently, the bill resides in a committee in the 80-member state Assembly, awaiting action.
As it stands, California law allows branded merchandise to be distributed at trade shows and similar events where attendees must be at least 21 years of age. Leafly reports that it’s common for cannabis event attendees to go home with T-shirts, bumper stickers, tote bags and more that bear marijuana company logos.
If Senate Bill 162 became law, however, all that merchandise would become illegal, hindering cannabis firms from marketing themselves and hurting sales for promo distributors keen to capitalize on a nascent industry projected to reach $20.2 billion in North American revenue by 2021, opponents of the bill say.
Not surprisingly, leaders in the promotional products industry are taking a stand against the proposed ban on branded merchandise.
“While we recognize the ongoing debate on this topic at the state and federal level, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) supports the use of promotional products as one of the most effective forms of advertising, and PPAI opposes limitations on the use of promotional products or any advertising medium to market or promote any goods, services or other business activity that is not prohibited by law,” said Tom Goos, immediate past chair of the PPAI board and president of Kirkland, WA-based promotional products agency Image Source (asi/230121).
Goos said that PPAI supports the grassroots efforts and decisions of California’s two regional associations to take actions in the best interest of their member constituents. “PPAI is monitoring the legislation in California and around the U.S. and will continue to provide support to regional associations and local business owners and operators on topics of emerging importance to the promotional products industry,” Goos said.
Similarly, marijuana trade groups are speaking out against the proposed legislation.
“To ban small businesses from advertising, marketing and branding is ridiculous,” Adam Spiker told LA Weekly. Spiker is executive director of the Southern California Coalition, the largest trade group of marijuana businesses in Los Angeles. He continued: “The bill would materially hamstring small business owners’ ability to grow in the land of opportunity. We are firmly against it, and will work to ensure lawmakers are aware of the harmful ramifications it would have.”
As evidenced by the unanimous Senate vote, however, the bill certainly has its supporters. They include the American Academy of Pediatrics, California, which wrote to Allen in support of his legislation. If adopted, Bill 162 would “ensure that children and youth are exposed to a minimal amount of marijuana advertising by assuring that no marijuana products could be marketed through branded merchandise,” read the academy’s letter to Allen. “This would help protect children from the dangerous health effects of marijuana use in a manner consistent with tobacco regulations.”
California already has a range of restrictions on advertising legal marijuana. They include prohibitions on signage and barring any advertising or marketing in broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital communications where less than 71.6% of the audience can reasonably be expected to be 21 years of age or older. The Golden State also prohibits marijuana businesses from giving away “any amount of marijuana or marijuana products, or any marijuana accessories, as part of a business promotion or other commercial activity.”
Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. They voted to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults last November.