As 25 More Denver Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Shut Their Doors To Keep the Feds Away, There's Talk of the Need to "clean up the industry" and Help "the kids" by Banning Sign Spinners, or Banning Medical Pot Advertising Entirely


Keen supporter of marijuana legalization, or even just the medical kind? Well, Colorado, and especially Denver, is way ahead of most of the U.S. on the latter. It's entirely possible that the former will happen this year as well, thanks to the soon-to-be-voted-on Amendment 64, which would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. We can only hope that if it does pass, it will prevent the occasional full-on SWAT raid which still happens to medical patients in that Rocky Mountain state (like these folks who were suspected of having a few too many plants).

Unfortunately for people who enjoy freedom in a general sense, some members of the medical marijuana lobby in Colorado are strongly advocating for restrictions on a different kind of freedom: the freedom to have sign-spinners or basically any kind of out door advertising to try to drum up patients for dispensaries. In spite of the fact that dispensaries in Denver now outnumber the city's Starbucks, Michael Elliot, the head of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group is engaging in some old-fashioned pearl clutching about the unseemliness of advertising for a perfectly legal (under local and state law) economic good. Likely this is due to the very real threat of Department of Justice crack-downs. Colorado dispensaries are currently living under the shadow of another U.S. Attorney's letter that led to 25 dispensaries that were within 1000 feet of schools, closing their doors under threat of prosecution. Still, it's a nasty game for Elliot to be playing when he's fighting for one kind of freedom.

See, says Elliot, they have to "clean up the industry." And " the justification for a complete ban of outdoor advertising is to prevent the encouragement of non-qualifying patients to use marijuana."

According to The Denver Post:

Denver's City Council is considering a bill to outlaw outdoor advertising for medical marijuana centers 1,000 feet from schools, day care centers and parks or recreation centers. But council members may look at a citywide ban instead.

"I was trying to look at doing something that was reasonable and something that I knew could withstand a court challenge and was focused on the kids," said Councilwoman Debbie Ortega, who is sponsoring the legislation.

Ortega asked the medical marijuana groups to come together and support a farther-reaching ordinance.

"Are you willing to support this and move forward," she asked the groups gathered at a council committee meeting on Wednesday. "If you all could get on the same page, I would be more than willing to work with you on a citywide ban."

Ortega has crafted the ordinance from the federal tobacco advertising laws. The ordinance's purpose, she said, would be to reduce use and possession by minors.

Norton Arbelaez, board chair of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, said medical marijuana advertising is not protected free speech under the First Amendment because the product is illegal under federal law.

"In order to qualify for the protection of free speech you have to say something legal," he said. "This is a substance that is against federal law. Because its status is illegal, it doesn't qualify for First Amendment protections under federal law."

Is this semi-soul-selling worth it? Maybe. There are some sick people in the world and making medical marijuana a serious, sober issue wouldn't be so bad.

But that still doesn't justify this. Nor, most likely, will such restictions save any dispensaries from crack-downs. There will always be another excuse, even if the Denver law passes. Protecting the children from drugs is a well that will never, ever run dry and whose water always grow more government

(Hat tip to Chuck Plunkett)

Reason on medical marijuana, and the state of marijuana in Colorado