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A new Senate bill filed on Tuesday would allow marijuana businesses in legal jurisdictions to advertise cannabis products and services on radio and TV without fear of being penalized by federal regulators.
The legislation from Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) is being titled the “Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Advertising Act.” The intent is similar to an amendment included in a recently House-passed spending package.
The standalone bill would block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from denying or otherwise penalizing broadcast stations that allow marijuana-related radio or TV ads as long as “the activities of the cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider were, at the time of the broadcast or other transmission of advertising,” were legal in the state, tribe or territory.
“As more states enact common-sense cannabis legislation, it’s crucial that radio and TV stations can accept advertising without fear of losing their license,” Luján, who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband that has jurisdiction over FCC, said in a press release.
There are some additional requirements to the bill that would be unique to cannabis ads, however.
For example, any advertisement that promotes the sale of a marijuana product would have to include the following disclosure: “This product has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.”
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A cannabis ad must also comply “with any applicable labeling requirements or other requirements adopted by the Surgeon General or the Food and Drug Administration for advertising of cannabis or cannabis products,” according to the bill, which was first noted by Politico.
For a broadcast station to transmit a marijuana-related ad, they must have “reliable evidence” that at least 70 percent of the audience is “reasonably expected” to be 21 years of age or older.
The legislation further provides protections for broadcasters that receive proceeds from running marijuana ads. For example, they would not be subject to enforcement action under any federal law, including the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of the fact that cannabis remains federally illegal, solely for running ads for legal marijuana businesses or for investing the proceeds from selling that airtime.
“I’m proud to introduce this legislation with the support of broadcasters across New Mexico and the country,” Luján said. “With health and safety measures in place, this legislation will allow broadcasters to accept cannabis advertisements in accordance with state laws.”
The measure also stipulates that “a depository institution, insurer, or other entity that provides a financial or other service to such a radio or television station providing advertising service to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, and the officers, directors, and employees of such radio or television station, depository institution, insurer, or other entity may not be held liable pursuant to any Federal law or regulation.”
Hemp businesses and products would also be specifically covered under the bill, though the non-intoxicating crop and its derivatives like CBD already federally legal.
Finally, the legislation calls for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study and issue an report that includes “an evaluation of whether cannabis-related legitimate businesses that are small business concerns or are owned by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual face systemic barriers to access service providers compared to other cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”
The report, which is not specific to advertising issues in the sector, would need to be submitted to Congress within one year of the bill’s enactment. It would also need to contain recommendations on how best to “facilitate the access of cannabis-related legitimate businesses to service providers, particularly cannabis-related legitimate businesses” that are small or owned by disadvantaged individuals.
Lujan’s office said the new bill is being supported by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Safe Advertising Coalition.
The SAFE Advertising Act—the title of which nods to the separate Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act—would more holistically accomplish a policy change that was included in a recently House-passed spending bill.
That appropriations amendment says that FCC could not use federal funds to penalize TV or radio broadcasters for airing cannabis ads in jurisdictions that permit the sale of such products. However, the standalone bill would set a mandate for FCC, not just restrict enforcement expenditures. The amendment, if adopted by the Senate and included in the final package sent to President Joe Biden, would also be subject to annual renewal, whereas the new bill would permanently codify the policy.
Read the text of the SAFE Advertising Act for marijuana-related broadcasting below:
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.