Scott Stanford: Addressing medical marijuana newspaper advertising
April 1, 2011
Steamboat Springs — I did not live in Colorado when the state's voters approved Amendment 20, making medical marijuana legal, in 2000.
If I had lived here, I would have voted "no." But I respect the voters' decision and accept the resulting impacts on our society, including the marketing of marijuana by licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. These are legal businesses, selling a legal product to registered users as defined by the state.
Recent discussions at the city level about restrictions and possibly bans on medical marijuana newspaper advertising are, as we recently said in an editorial, off target. The newspaper would oppose any such restrictions on the grounds that they would violate the state Constitution and the First Amendment.
That said, the newspaper has a responsibility to uphold specific community standards in any advertising it accepts. If we don't, we risk doing harm to our reputation and, by extension, our business.
This week, we undertook a review of medical marijuana advertising in the newspaper. And I spent the better part of the past couple of days talking with medical marijuana dispensary operators. For the most part, those owner/operators shared my concerns about community standards. They take their business seriously. None complained about the guidelines I asked them to follow. Specifically, I asked them:
■ To include a disclaimer on advertising that their products are intended for sale only to patients properly registered with the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry.
■ Not to use advertising tactics aimed at underage residents.
■ Not to use advertising that misleads residents about the services dispensaries can provide.
I hope these guidelines address some of the concerns raised recently. I understand that, for those vigorously opposed to medical marijuana, such guidelines may fall short.
But if you are a medical marijuana opponent, trying to ban newspaper advertising is a bit like trying to put your finger on a piece of mercury. It doesn't solve or even shrink your problem; it just shifts it someplace else. My advice? If you don't like the state's laws, work to change them directly. You might even get my vote.
If you want to talk more about medical marijuana advertising or any other newspaper issue, join me for Coffee and a Newspaper from 7 to 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Steamboat Pilot & Today office. The newspaper, the coffee and the conversation are free.
Scott Stanford is general manager of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Call him at 970-871-4202 or email sstanford@SteamboatToday.com