Legalization Bill Moving Along in Hawaii Legislature

A bill to make Hawaii the next state to legalize recreational cannabis cleared a legislative hurdle this week.

The legislation “advanced out of two state Senate committees Thursday — and is now moving to the full senate,” according to local station HawaiiNewsNow.

Under the measure, adults aged 21 and older could legally possess and consume marijuana, while the state would regulate and oversee a cannabis market. 

The station said that the bill was “approved by the Consumer Protection and Ways and Means Committees.”

According to local news station KHON2, the chair of the Consumer Protection Committee “chose to provide some proposals on amendments that had been integrated to cover issues that had been raised in earlier hearings.”

Per the station, those amendments are: “1. Language was added to establish civil penalties for unlicensed cannabis growth and distribution activities; 2. Language was added that protects employers who seek to prohibit cannabis use amongst their employees; 3. Prohibition of advertising within 1,000 feet of any youth-centered area; 4. Proposed licensing of cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail facilities that ensure a properly regulated industry while also preventing future consolidation and monopoly control of cannabis dispensaries.”

Democratic state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, who chairs the Consumer Protection Committee, said that the bill’s approval by the two senate committees marked “a significant step forward in the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Hawaiʻi.”

“These amendments are reflective of the Senate’s commitment to ensuring a fair and well-regulated cannabis market that provides safe access to both adult consumers and existing medical patients,” said Keohokalole, as quoted by KHON2.

Democrats control both chambers of the Hawaii state legislature. The state’s Democratic governor, Josh Green, who was elected and took office last year, has said that he would sign a cannabis legalization bill if it were to land on his desk.

“I think that people already have moved past that culturally as a concern,” Green said during a gubernatorial debate in the fall. “But here’s what I would do. First of all, if marijuana is legalized, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve been very careful to regulate tobacco over the years. We should take the $30 to $40 million of taxes we would get from that and invest in the development and recreation of our mental healthcare system for the good of all.”

An adviser to the governor reiterated that support this week.

“Governor Green supports legalized use of cannabis by adults, providing that any legislation that emerges protects public safety and consumers, and assures product safety with testing and tracking. The Governor also seeks to ensure the continued viability of our medical cannabis industry. Because these are complicated issues, he has encouraged his departments to state their concerns, and to make suggestions if there are ways to mitigate them. If a bill passes the legislature that accounts for his primary concerns, he has indicated he will likely sign it,” the adviser said in a statement, as quoted by HawaiiNewsNow.

Moreover, there is broad public support for legalization among Hawaiians. 

A poll released earlier this year found that more than 50% of residents there support the legalization of adult-use marijuana.

But while the bill is widely expected to pass out of the Hawaii state Senate, it is “likely to run into strong opposition in the state House,” according to HawaiiNewsNow.

The station reported that the speaker of the state House of Represenatives, Scott Saiki, has “said the state is not ready this year.”

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Twitter Allows Cannabis Companies to Advertise 

Last week Twitter became the first social media giant to allow cannabis companies to advertise. Previously, only hemp-deprived topical products could advertise. Twitter is the lone wolf among social media companies allowing cannabis companies to advertise. Other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have a no-cannabis advertising policy. A statement from Twitter said only cannabis companies in the legal states would be permitted to advertise. As well, the ads can’t target anyone under 21 years old. Is This Elon’s Doing? […]

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Trulieve Makes History as First Cannabis Brand to Advertise on Twitter

When Elon Musk bought Twitter in 2022, speculation about looming company-wide changes made worldwide headlines. Every controversial decision Musk made, from “ending” political censorship to charging for verification checkmarks, gave journalists and media outlets salacious opportunities to evaluate his choices. The announcement from the social media platform that it will change its cannabis advertising policies has the industry applauding the bold decision.

The new policy will lift advertising bans on cannabis advertising and related content, allowing for greater promotion of previously restricted ads. According to the policy update announced on February 15, Twitter will immediately allow advertising and promotional content related to legal cannabis products and services. The new rules will make concessions for content that promotes education and research about the plant and allow advertisers to promote brands, products and services.

Specifically, according to the Cannabis Ads Policy, CBD and similar cannabinoid products, THC and related products and cannabis-infused products and services—including delivery services, labs, growing technology, search engines and more—are now allowed to advertise on the platform. Additionally, to incentivize businesses to advertise, Twitter is offering to match every cannabis or CBD advertising dollar spent up to $250,000 until March 30, 2023.

Under the social media platform’s policy change, on February 15 behemoth multi-state operator Trulieve made history as the first company to launch an advertising campaign on Twitter.

“The plant really provides an opportunity for the world outside of traditional medicine that can bring great changes and benefits to all and Twitter is an important platform to educate within,” Gina Collins, chief marketing officer at Trulieve, said. “But there’s also a business reality that nobody talks about—especially in the macro-economic conditions we’re all facing—there’s ad revenue to be had. It has mutual benefits for more than just two key players or one small industry. It seems much bigger than that.”

Collins says she hopes the groundbreaking update from Twitter will encourage cannabis advertising policy reform across other social media platforms, believing the news to be a “catalyst.”

“If there’s bravery on a platform such as Twitter to come out and say this is an untapped industry and allow a credible business to come forth, then the rest will have to reconsider their policies too,” Collins says. “Twitter has been evolving its policies and products since they had a leadership change. Elon Musk is a huge advocate of the plant itself, and I suspect there were pretty active conversations around the decision.”

Potential advertisers will have to contend with an arduous approval process to ensure they follow the updated guidelines and are educated on the platform. Once cannabis executives pass that hurdle, they’ll have new tools with Twitter’s advertising products, such as in-stream videos, promoted tweets and product opportunities, to name a few. While that’s a win for cannabis marketers, the promotion of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and content that promotes drug use are still prohibited.

Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer for cannabis MSO Wana Brands, says that the new Twitter policy will change the company’s financial commitment to its 2023 marketing plan.

“Strategically, I still need to reach the consumer and drive them into a dispensary to purchase the product,” Hodas says. “And this has offered me another chance to do it. This potentially gives me another more targeted approach to reaching the consumer I can’t get through programmatic ads.”

Will Other Advertising Platforms Follow Suit?

Search engine giant Google quietly announced it was making some adjustments to its restrictive advertising policies around CBD and hemp products beginning in January 2023. However, it didn’t go nearly as far as Twitter and by all accounts, the updated policies are an excessively costly, burdensome process of paying a certification provider thousands of dollars in application, monitoring and website fees before paying for the advertising costs itself.

While Google did remove CBD from its list of unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements list, its policies are still highly restrictive, only allowing hemp-derived topical CBD products with less than 0.3% or less THC ad content.

Hodas agrees that, as it so often is the case, education is key to progress and that we’re still contending with a lack of understanding.

“This question of hemp and CBD, it’s an issue for the cannabis industry in the sense that I think there’s a lack of education,” Hodas says. “In the early days, some platforms said CBD was permitted, but not allow THC. Well, now that’s all getting blurred as well. I think this further reinforces that we need better education.”

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Twitter To Allow THC, CBD, and Related Ads in U.S.

In a seismic shift away from the way nearly all major social media platforms handle cannabis ad-related content, Twitter announced it will be the first to allow cannabis-related ads based in the U.S. 

Twitter announced that it will allow advertisers to promote branded and informational cannabis-related content under the following categories: CBD and similar cannabinoid products; THC and similar products; as well as cannabis-related products and services such as delivery services, labs, growing technology, search engines, and events.

The cannabis ad policy move changes everything for businesses with the money to advertise. Toronto, Ontario-based AdCann in Canada was the first to break the news.

“Up until now, only CBD topical brands were permitted to advertise on Twitter’s platform,” AdCann wrote on its website. “Moving forward—the social network will allow for the promotion of regulated THC and CBD-containing cannabis products, accessories, services and more.” 

AdCann continued, “American cannabis companies, brands, and purveyors will need to pass through a Twitter advertiser approval process to ensure they are legitimate and educated on the platform. Once approved, industry marketers will have access to Twitter’s entire suite of advertising products including promoted tweets, promoted product opportunities, location-specific takeovers, in-stream video sponsorships and partner publication features.”

AdCann reiterated that in Canada, cannabis has been legal at the federal level since 2018, so Twitter already allows for cannabis advertising in the country.

Cannabis Companies React to Policy Change

Leading cannabis company PAX, makers of industry standard devices like the PAX Pro and PAX Era, is among the first brands to advertise cannabis-related content on Twitter. 

“This is a big moment, as a major advertising platform is making the decision to treat cannabis like any other consumer products category,” Luke Droulez, VP of Marketing at PAX said in a statement obtained by High Times. “We’re excited to be among the first of Twitter’s cannabis advertising partners and be able to engage customers more directly. After decades of prohibitionist propaganda, there is an opportunity to destigmatize and normalize the plant and its use.”

Twitter posted the policy update on its Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia section of the website, which outlines the process for advertisers promoting cannabis products.

“We permit approved cannabis (including CBD – cannabinoids) advertisers to target the United States, subject to the following restrictions:

  • Advertisers must be licensed by the appropriate authorities, and pre-authorized by Twitter.
  • Advertisers may only target jurisdictions in which they are licensed to promote these products or services online.
  • Advertisers may not promote or offer the sale of cannabis (including CBD – cannabinoids)
    • Exception: Ads for topical (non-ingestible) hemp-derived CBD topical products containing equal to or less than the 0.3% THC government-set threshold.       
  • Advertisers are responsible for complying with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and advertising guidelines.
  • Advertisers may not target customers under the age of 21.”

Elon Musk and the New Twitter

Twitter owner and billionaire Elon Musk is in an ongoing game of chess: It’s the latest major change on the platform under his watch, among many, including the decisions to launch paid verification and reinstate accounts like Donald Trump’s.  

Meanwhile, on Feb. 4, Twitter owner Elon Musk cryptically tweeted “420,” which assuredly is a jab back at a previous 2018 tweet about 420 that landed him in trouble with government and aerospace officials.

In 2018, Musk rounded up Tesla shares from $419 to $420, announcing his plan to go private in a tweet. “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420,” Musk tweeted on Aug. 7, 2018. “Funding secured.”—sending officials from The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into a tailspin. Musk denied the tweet was about cannabis in a California court.

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Google Updates Policy To Allow Hemp, CBD Products with Certification

Google released an announcement this month that explains an update to its “Dangerous Products and Services and Healthcare and Medicines.” As of Jan. 20, 2023, cannabis advertising will be allowed, but currently only in California, Colorado, and Puerto Rico.

Specifically, this update pertains to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved products that contain CBD, or topical, hemp-derived CBD products with 0.3% or less THC. “Certain formats, including YouTube Masthead, will not be eligible for serving. CBD will be removed from the Unapproved Pharmaceuticals and Supplements list. All ads promoting other CBD-based products, including supplements, food additives, and inhalants, continue to be disallowed,” Google states.

Google is partnering with LegitScript to create a certification program for non-ingestible CBD manufacturers. LegitScript CEO Scott Roth explained how the certification aims to create a standard for the cannabis industry. “When people see the LegitScript seal on your product or website, they know that you operate safely and transparently,” said Roth. “In an industry that is still seeing widespread problems with products that are tainted, substandard, or illegal, it’s more important than ever to give consumers confidence that the CBD products they’re purchasing have been properly vetted.”

LegitScript works with other payment service providers such as Visa, Google, Bing, and Facebook. “LegitScript Certification lets the world know which healthcare merchants, CBD products and websites, and drug and alcohol addiction treatment facilities operate safely and transparently,” the company states in a press release. “The result? Certified merchants can stand out from the crowd, grow their online presence, and demonstrate credibility in high-risk industries. LegitScript is the leading third-party certification expert in these tightly regulated and complex sectors.”

LegitScript will charge a fee for processing and monitoring applicants (although the company’s website says that fees are waived through March 31, 2023). Applicants may submit their websites for a LegitScript certification in order to advertise on Google. After LegitScript certifies a website, they will be given “information on demonstrating your certified status,” such as a LegitScript “Seal of Approval” that can be displayed on a certified website.

LegitScript’s starting fees per CBD product vary between $650 for one to five products, decreasing for brackets including $600 for six to 50 products, $550 for 51 to 99, and finally $500 for 100 or more. There is also an annual monitoring fee that ranges between $750 to $1,000 depending on the number of CBD products as well. Full websites require an $800 fee per website, with either a $1,600 annual fee per website, or $2,250 annually for a “probationary website” for websites with “a past history of significant compliance issues.”

This move is a step in the right direction for hemp products, although there is currently no mention of expanding this new update to other states yet.

In the past, there have been some negative interactions between Google and cannabis-related content. In 2016, one Minnesota-based medical cannabis company fought against Google for banning it from advertising online due to having “dangerous products or services.” That same year, Google saw a 75% increase in cannabis searches online, and allowed games about the War on Drugs to be promoted on Google Play. 

In 2017, Google Docs temporarily labeled documents, including those relating to cannabis, as inappropriate (although the event was considered to be due to a coding error and was promptly fixed).

In July 2019, Google announced that cannabis products would be banned from the app store, and during the height of the vaping epidemic later that year, Apple also removed all vaping-related apps from the iOS store.

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House Passes Bill Permitting Weed Ads on TV and Radio

The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bill that would permit cannabis advertising on broadcast television and radio stations. The legislation is included as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, which was passed by lawmakers in the House on Wednesday.

Under the provisions of the appropriations bill, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be barred from using appropriated funds to deny a broadcaster a license renewal or sale application for airing cannabis advertising in jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana. The FCC would also be prohibited from requiring a station to file an early license renewal application for broadcasting cannabis ads.

Current regulations allow the FCC to revoke a license from broadcasters that air advertisements for federally illegal products including weed, even in states that have passed laws legalizing cannabis. As a result, cannabis businesses are limited to advertising in other forums including print newspapers and magazines, online, billboards, cable television, satellite radio, and social media. Alex Siciliano, a spokesman for the National Associations of Broadcasters, said on Wednesday that the legislation passed in the House this week levels the playing field for cannabis advertising.

“For too long, local broadcasters have been stuck in a regulatory purgatory because of conflicting federal and state cannabis laws,” Siciliano said in a statement. “Today’s passage marks an important step towards allowing broadcasters to receive equal treatment for cannabis advertising that many other forms of media have enjoyed for years. While we are pleased to see the House act, broadcasters will continue to work with policymakers for a permanent resolution to this competitive disparity to the benefit of consumers.”

Broadcasting Groups Applaud Legislation

The spending bill was passed by the House Appropriations committee in June. The legislation gives broadcasters access to the growing market for cannabis advertising, which is expected to total $18.5 billion this year alone.

“We are pleased to see that this bipartisan language has advanced in the House today,” Siciliano said in a statement late last month. “As the vast majority of states have legalized cannabis in some form, today marks a long overdue step toward finally allowing broadcasters to receive equal treatment regarding cannabis advertising that other forms of media have had for years.”

David Donovan, president of the New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA), thanked lawmakers in the House “for recognizing the unfairness of the present situation with respect to cannabis advertising.”

“The provision in this House appropriations bill is a major step forward for leveling the playing field for local broadcasters,” Donovan said in a statement from the broadcasting industry group. “We believe the law of the state in which a station is licensed should determine whether a station can accept cannabis advertising if they so choose. We look forward to working with members of Congress and the Administration to help restore parity between local broadcasters and other media outlets.”

“We believe the law of the state in which a station is licensed should determine whether a station can accept cannabis advertising if they so choose,” Donovan added. “We look forward to working with members of Congress and the Administration to help restore parity between local broadcasters and other media outlets.”

Before the bill becomes effective, it must still be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden. The NYSBA noted that gaining Senate approval for the legislation may be a challenge.

“The appropriations process is notoriously complex, which means the bill may get stalled. Congress is likely to adopt an interim budget through a continuing resolution. At some point, perhaps after the mid-term elections, there will be a final vote. Even if it passes, the legislation is not a ‘silver bullet.’”

Because the cannabis advertising provisions were passed as part of an annual appropriations bill, the prohibition on the FCC taking action against broadcasters for airing weed ads would only be in effect for one year, beginning on October 1. For the marijuana advertising terms to continue, the appropriations language must be reauthorized each year.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Look to Ban Out-of-State Cannabis Ads

Lawmakers in Connecticut on Tuesday took a big step toward banning out-of-state cannabis advertisements within its borders, with a bill easily winning approval in the House of Representatives.

The measure passed the state House by a vote of 98-48, according to the Associated Press, which said that the legislation seeks to prevent “anyone without a Connecticut cannabis-related license from advertising the product and cannabis-services within the state.”

The Associated Press reported that billboard ads have recently appeared on Connecitcut’s border with Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis is also legal for adults.

The move by lawmakers comes after Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said last year that he wanted to crack down on those billboards luring customers across the border to Massachusetts.

Local television station WTNH reported that Tong had “reached out to the billboard companies and dispensaries directly with mixed results.”

The bill that was passed by the Connecticut House of Representatives on Tuesday builds on the state’s legalization measure that was signed into law last year by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.

As in other states, parts of Connecticut’s new cannabis law took effect immediately, most notably the ability for adults aged 21 and older to have as many as 1.5 ounces of pot in their possession. Sales are expected to begin in the state next year.

When signed the bill into law last June, Lamont hailed it as a victory for civil rights.

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement at the time.

“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” he added.

In addition to a ban on out-of-state cannabis ads, the bill that was passed by the House on Tuesday would also prohibit “Connecticut licensees from using images of the cannabis plant as well as from advertising on an illuminated billboard between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and from advertising within 1,500 yards of a school or church,” according to the Associated Press.

“Look, I’m sick of seeing these billboards with cannabis leaves splayed all across them, within 1,500 yards across from a school or church or whatever. Can’t we do something more about that?” said Democratic state House Rep. Mike D’Agostino, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The bill also seeks to impose restrictions on “gifting,” through which retailers pay for a product like a T-shirt and are then given a “gift” of cannabis.

The practice has emerged as a go-to loophole for businesses operating in markets where cannabis has been legal, but regulated sales have not begun.

According to the Associated Press, “D’Agostino stressed that lawmakers are not banning people from giving someone a gift of marijuana, but rather trying to reign in these commercial exchanges.”

“You can gift to your friends and relatives. You can host a brownie party at your house,” D’Agostino said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

In his statement following the signing of the legalization bill last summer, Lamont said that the new law “will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.”

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New York Launches Cannabis Public Education Campaign

New York residents will be seeing cannabis-themed television commercials, subway advertisements, and billboards with the launch of a cannabis public education campaign announced by Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday. The Cannabis Conversations campaign, which is scheduled to run over the next three months, is designed to remind New Yorkers of the risks of driving impaired by cannabis, provide parents with tools to protect young people, and spread other messages related to the legalization of cannabis.

The governor’s office noted that last year’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) that legalized cannabis in New York is focused on public health and was developed to support the principles of safety, social justice, and economic development. As part of this shift in public policy, the MRTA includes provisions mandating public education campaigns to inform New Yorkers about the new law and its impact on health and safety.

“With the ‘Cannabis Conversations’ campaign, we’re following through on our commitment to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to safely navigate the new Cannabis Law,” Hochul said in a statement. “Education is the best tool to keep New Yorkers healthy as we continue to ramp up this safe, inclusive, and equitable industry.”

Courtesy of NYS Office of Cannabis Management

The education campaign from New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will consist of messages in English and Spanish distributed through television commercials, radio spots, transit ads, social media posts and billboards. Monday’s launch includes the release of a 30-second spot highlighting New York’s legalization of cannabis for adults 21 and older, the importance of not driving under the influence, and the need to securely store cannabis away from children and pets.

“‘Cannabis Conversations’ is our first public health campaign as we make sure New Yorkers have the initial information they need to stay safe and healthy. We have learned from other states and are excited to amplify these important messages across the State,” said Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright. “Meanwhile, we’re hard at work building this new industry, and as it continues to evolve, so, too, will our public education efforts with future campaigns tackling a growing range of health and safety messaging.”

Program Started with Community Outreach

The new program builds on the original Cannabis Conversations campaign featuring a series of virtual community outreach events hosted by Wright in January and February. The series featured 10 events focused on different regions of the state and one statewide event in Spanish.

Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the cannabis reform advocacy group the Drug Policy Alliance, said that it “is essential for New York’s Cannabis Conversation campaign to establish statewide literacy of our new cannabis policy.”

“New Yorkers have experienced decades of prohibition, disparate enforcement, and with increasing intensity misinformation. The Office of Cannabis Management was created to serve as a central hub for cannabis policy and information,” added Frederique. “It is our hope that this is only the beginning of the state’s robust public education that not only teaches people what the law is, but includes considerations around consumption, how to become an entrepreneur, and where to get help if you need it.”

New York
Courtesy of NYS Office of Cannabis Management

Additional messages in the Cannabis Conversations campaign will be released over the next three months. Sarah Ravenhall, executive director of the New York State Association of County Health Officials, said that she is encouraged to see that the governor and the OCM are taking public health and health equity seriously as the state prepares for the full implementation of legalized cannabis.

“There are health risks associated with cannabis use that require sound policy to mitigate, and the governor’s ‘Cannabis Conversations’ Campaign is a clear indication that this administration supports a thoughtful and careful approach to cannabis policy,” said Ravenhall. “We look forward to working with the state to monitor the program’s public health impact and to continue to find new ways to ensure New York has the safest program possible.”

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Advertising Cannabis – How the Industry Works Around Media Restrictions

Cannabis is legal in most of North America, but restrictions on advertising cannabis still exist. The industry works around these limits, but is it enough? Recently, NBC blocked a Weedmaps commercial from playing during Super Bowl LVI. The commercial looks pretty innocuous, with jokes about how people use “broccoli” as a euphemism for cannabis. Still, […]

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