A key Congressional committee has just approved legislation that would allow state-licensed cannabis companies to advertise their wares on local TV and radio stations.
Under current federal law, any television or radio station that airs an advertisement for any federally-prohibited product, including cannabis, can have their broadcasting license revoked by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Without access to TV and radio ads, legal weed companies are forced to stick to billboards, print media, and the occasional social media ad. But even with these limitations, cannabis companies are still expected to spend $18.5 billion in advertising money this year – and TV and radio stations would love to get a cut of that cash.
If the new proposal becomes law, the FCC would be barred from using federal funding to take any action against a TV or radio station that advertises cannabis in a state where weed is legal. This would allow any station to air cannabis-related ads without fear of getting taken off the air by the feds. Broadcasters would still be allowed to deny ad time to weed companies if they so choose, though.
"For too long, local broadcasters have been stuck in a regulatory purgatory because of conflicting federal and state cannabis laws,” said National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) spokesperson Alex Siciliano 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.”
The new advertising provision has been rolled into the most recent annual Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, which will hand out nearly $30 billion to federal agencies over the next fiscal year. So far, Congress has yet to pass a standalone cannabis reform bill, but lawmakers have had much better luck tucking pro-weed amendments into must-pass annual budget bills like this one.
This weekend, the House Appropriations Committee approved the funding bill, with the cannabis advertising language intact. There are still several hurdles this provision must overcome before it can become law, though. The bill must still pass the full House and Senate, and although the House has approved several comprehensive cannabis reform amendments to date, the Senate has a long history of shutting them down.
The overall appropriations process is also exceptionally complicated, and on many occasions, the federal government has ended up getting temporarily shut down because Congress has been unable to resolve their budget issues in a timely fashion. David Donovan, President of the New York State Broadcasters Association, told AdAge that the bill is likely to “get stalled” before it can become law.
“Congress is likely to adopt an interim budget through a continuing resolution,” Donovan explained. “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 budget bill is an annual bill, the cannabis ad provision would only remain in effect for one year, and would need to be renewed annually. Donovan does believe that Congress would continue to renew the ad provision if they can manage to pass it just once, though.