Expect to see ads for pot as recreational sales becomes legal - KPTV - FOX 12

Expect to see ads for pot as recreational sales becomes legal

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Starting at midnight October 1, recreational marijuana will be sold legally in Oregon through medical marijuana dispensaries, marking the beginning of an entirely new cannabis economy for the state.

Now, just as people have seen advertisements for medical marijuana, they're soon going to see them for recreational marijuana too.

The ads won't be everywhere. People won’t see them on TV or hear them on radio.

Television and radio stations are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, and under federal law, marijuana is still illegal.

The Oregonian newspaper debated whether to accept recreational pot ads, and has now decided to accept them since marijuana will be legal in the state.

But the paper is applying its own restrictions, which are basically the same ones they apply to liquor ads.

Marijuana ads will run only in sections which cater to adults, so readers won’t find them in sections like high school sports.

These new cannabis ads also won't show marijuana itself, though if the store has a marijuana leaf logo it will probably be accepted.

Jerry Ketel, creative director at local ad agency Leopold Ketel, is hard at work for cannabis client New Vansterdam. He's helping them develop their brand, and sees great opportunity.

“It's a whole new ballgame. It's like a gold rush in a way,” he said. “New Vansterdam sees an opportunity to become a brand much like Starbucks is a brand for coffee. They want to be a brand for selling cannabis.”

Portland Mercury publisher Rob Thompson said his alternative weekly will definitely accept recreational marijuana ads, as it has for medical marijuana dispensaries, adding the product fits the paper's demographics.

"We have a very young, active consumer, 21 to 41 years old, and we're a great source,” Thompson said.

The Willamette Week has also been advertising medical marijuana, and some ads are already announcing the sale of recreational marijuana on October 1.

Publishers and agencies would not say how much money they expect to make from cannabis advertising. Some said it is just too soon to even make projections, but it certainly could be a growing part of the revenue stream.

Attorney Vincent Sliwoski writes the Canna Law Blog for the Canna Law Group.  He expects the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to restrict pot advertising similar to the way Washington and Colorado have done, likely following current tobacco and liquor ad rules.

However, Sliwoski said Oregon law allows far more leeway than either of those two states, or even the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"Free speech law here in Oregon is pretty broad, pretty protective of speech generally," he said, explaining it will be difficult for the OLCC to restrict ads. “They'll get sued. Oregon courts have already protected speech and speech includes advertising.”

Still, most expect the state will issue restrictions, such as the ads not appealing to minors or promoting over-consumption or anything else that creates a risk to public safety.

While people don't expect to see TV ads for recreational marijuana, a subtle ad for pot almost ran on a station in Colorado.

In the end the ad was pulled before it ever ran, but eventually a TV or radio station in Oregon or elsewhere could decide to take on the FCC.

“I think it's going to be up to individual carriers - newspapers, television channels, whatever - to decide whether or not we want this money and whether we want to run these ads,” Sliwoski said. “It could be a lot of money. There are a lot of well-funded business people and entrepreneurs in this industry.”

For now though, the players are largely policing themselves, wary of legalities, and public opinion.

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