An Arizona state lawmaker has proposed a bill to ban billboards advertising pot. Senate Bill 1032 blocks outdoor advertising “if it promotes the sale of a substance that is prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act.”
Marijuana possession is against federal law even as states have legalized the drug for medical or recreational use.
State Sen. David Farnsworth introduced the bill, he says, based on concerns from a constituent. In a phone interview Farnsworth said he takes issue with billboards making health or medical claims that can be disputed.
The dispensary locator app Weedmaps has several billboards throughout the Valley. Farnsworth mentioned one that made claims about juvenile marijuana use in Colorado and Washington following the drug’s legalization in those states.
Another Weedmaps billboard in Phoenix provides a figure for Medicaid cost savings if marijuana were legal across the country. A medical report is cited at the bottom of the ad.
As it is currently written, Senate Bill 1032 does not distinguish marijuana ads making medical claims from dispensary ads providing location and contact information.
Dispensary owner JP Holyoak says the bill would not only prevent him from advertising his business Arizona Natural Selections, but it would trample the right to free speech.
“Legislators and politicians, they talk about free speech as if it's important unless they happen to disagree with it,” says Holyoak.
Holyoak says he’s not breaking the law and that the legislation is another attack on his industry.
“We are state legal, we are licensed by the state, we're inspected by the state,” says Holyoak.
“This was passed by state voters so we are in complete compliance with state law as are those billboards.”
Holyoak also believes banning billboards for one type of business is a slippery slope to regulating all business advertisements.
When asked about free speech concerns and the possibility SB 1032 having a negative impact on business owners running dispensaries, Farnsworth said the bill will likely change through the legislative process to avoid “unintended consequences.”
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