House Votes to Allow Cannabis TV and Radio Ads

Marijuana TV and radio ads prohibition by FCC is destined to change. The House of Representatives filed a bill that will allow cannabis ads on TV and radio. This permission will only apply within the states where cannabis products have been legalized. When signed into law, the Federal Communications Commission will be barred from taking any disciplinary action against TV or radio stations that accept cannabis advertisements. 


California State legalized medical marijuana in 1996, while recreational use became legal in another two states in 2012. To date, 37 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana. The states have had to deal with numerous restrictions and abide by a long list of laws. One of the restrictions is the prohibition from placing any cannabis product ads on radio or TV. 


Overcoming cannabis products advertising biases


The FCC has been biased when setting rules on who is allowed to accept cannabis ads and who shouldn’t. The commission already allows billboard, cable, print, internet, and satellite organizations to accept cannabis ads. Unfortunately, radio and TV brands have been prohibited. 


The passing of the bill paves the way for the elimination of such advertising biases. The New York State Broadcasters Association president David Donovan was quick to note that passing the bill is a major step. It will help create a balanced playing ground for both local radio and TV stations. 


In his statement, David said that sections of the bill give clear guidance on how a station’s host state will allow acceptance of cannabis ads. He noted that his association and other players would work closely with the Senate and the commission to bring back equity between regional stations and other outlets. 


Making the law permanent


It is a budget-based bill which means its purpose will only be effective within the fiscal year that starts in October. There is still a window, though, for the lawmakers or the Federal Communications Commission to make the law permanent. According to Alex Siciliano, the National Association of Broadcasters spokesperson, the association is focused on working closely with policymakers to find a lasting solution to the disparity. The best way forward is to push for reforms that will benefit not only the media houses but also the consumers. 


Eyeing the lucrative advertising budgets from the cannabis sector


Figures by Statista show the cannabis sector in North America was valued at $661 million in 2018. That budget is projected to grow to $3.89 billion by 2028. A digital marketing survey by the Cannabis Marketing Association and NXTeck shows advertising companies are focused on getting a revenue share from the advertising billions set aside by cannabis companies. 

The survey points out key emerging themes. Over 80% of cannabis marketers have challenges creating the right content for their audiences. Most cannabis ads are currently placed on social media sites to create brand awareness. Many cannabis companies are working with very tight marketing budgets of less than $50,000. 


Most marijuana marketers are either underutilizing or overutilizing the channels they have at their disposal. There are many more channels that marketers can use and generate better revenue, such as email, radio, and TV ads campaigns. The survey confirmed the rumors that marijuana marketers create overstretched goals but allocate too limited resources and teams to make the goals happen. 


This is an excellent chance for radio and TV companies to take advantage and offer marketers a better option for placing ads to increase audience reach and sales. When the alternatives look more viable, marketers are likely to increase advertising budgets from millions to billions within the next few years. This is what broadcasters will be eyeing to cash in. 


The language used when creating the bill is very critical. When crafted properly, it will renew hopes for the broadcasters for cashing in from the ads. The bill is within a proposed federal budget contained in the Financial Services and General Government part of the budget. Barring the FCC from taking action against broadcasting stations will apply even in state jurisdictions where local legislation hasn’t been changed. 


Success in advocacy of cannabis ads


There has been ongoing advocacy for cannabis ads, and the passing of this bill signifies their efforts have been making an impact. The Safe Advertising Coalition has been pushing for fairness when allowing cannabis ads. A section of the law clearly states that the state in which a broadcasting station is located should decide the conditions for ad acceptance or refusal. 


The ball rolled into the Senate after the House passed major provisions of the bill. The battle in the Senate will not be easy because Democrats require a minimum of 10 Republican votes for the bill to sail through. According to Inside Radio lobbyists, it is expected that some GOP Senators will oppose the sections of the bill that liberalize cannabis advertising. 


The fiscal year that starts in October will serve as an experimental year, and if it records a success, the lawmakers might be convinced to make the law permanent. The bill will not only prohibit the FCC from issuing fines but also from requiring early license renewal applications by broadcasting houses that are accepting cannabis ads. The total revenue to be generated from cannabis ads cannot be known at this juncture, but estimates from Statista show ads revenue could hit $1.6 billion by the close of 2022. 


Laws only apply to states, tribes, or territories where cannabis is legal


The cannabis ads bill was introduced by Senator Ben Ray Lujan. He titled it the Secure and Fair Enforcement Advertising Act (SAFE ad act). It is intended to bring amendments to the cannabis ads laws. The standalone legislation became an inclusion of the spending package that was passed recently by the House. 


When signed into law, its provisions shall apply in states, tribes, or territories where cannabis is legalized at that time. It is expected that more states will soon legalize cannabis use, but radio and TV houses fear losing their licenses if they accept cannabis ads. According to Senator Lujan, the bill will require additional clauses to make it unique to cannabis ads. 


This year alone, there are about 1,500 marijuana, psychedelics, and drug policy bills awaiting discussions and passing by various state legislators across the US. Activists and advocacy groups can only hope that the bills will be passed sooner and signed into law before this year ends. 

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