Almost Half of Highway Sponsorships in Colorado Backed by Pot Businesses

Metro Cannabis was among the first marijuana businesses to sponsor a Colorado highway, as seen in this 2015 image.
Metro Cannabis was among the first marijuana businesses to sponsor a Colorado highway, as seen in this 2015 image. Fox31
Of the 287 miles of Colorado roadway that are currently part of the state's Sponsor a Highway program, 140 of them, or just under half, are being paid for by marijuana businesses.

We obtained the complete Sponsor a Highway program list by way of an open-records request to the Colorado Department of Transportation. It's accessible below, along with the most recent version of the state's rules for retail marijuana businesses, including the advertising restrictions that explain why cannabis enterprises are so eager to sponsor a highway.

State regulations prohibit advertising on television, radio, in print or on the Internet "unless the Retail Marijuana Establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience for the program on which the Advertising is to air is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21," the document states — a restriction put in place with the intention of limiting the exposure of children to pot ads.

Such limitations have frustrated businesses for years — Westword actually took part in a 2014 lawsuit over them — and the standards are just as strict when it comes to outdoor advertising. The statute emphasizes that in general, "it shall be unlawful for any Retail Marijuana Establishment to engage in Advertising that is visible to members of the public from any street, sidewalk, park or other public place, including Advertising utilizing any of the following media: any billboard or other outdoor general Advertising device; any sign mounted on a vehicle, any hand-held or other portable sign; or any handbill, leaflet or flier directly handed to any person in a public place, left upon a motor vehicle, or posted upon any public or private property without the consent of the property owner."

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Starbuds sponsors ten miles of highway.
Among the few exceptions to this rule is the Sponsor a Highway program, and marijuana-business participation has been booming. Two years ago at this time, only a handful of pot shops were taking advantage of this opportunity. Now, dozens are doing so.

Indeed, the first business on the Sponsor a Highway roster is 3B Ventures, the owner of Buddy Boy dispensaries. The next marijuana outfit alphabetically is Ajoya, which sponsors two miles, followed by Alpenglow Botanicals (four miles), Beyond Broadway LLC, the business name for LivWell (five miles), the edibles operation BlueKudu (six miles), Cannasseur (two miles), Chronic Therapy (two miles), Colorado Gold LLP, which does business as Sticky Ickys (two miles), Colorado Kind Care LLC, also known as The Village Green Society (three miles), Euflora (sixteen miles), Golden Nugget Dispensary (one mile), Green Mann Cannabis (two miles), Green Medicine LLC, better known as The Green Joint (nine miles), Karing Kind LLC (five miles), L'Eagle Services LLC (one mile) and Maggie's Farm LLC (four miles).

More examples: Medicine Man (two miles), Nature's Gift Shop (three miles), Nuvue Pharma (five miles), O.penVAPE (one mile), Organic Alternatives (two miles), Peak Holdings Group LLC, which runs the Peak dispensary (two miles), Pueblo West Organics (two miles), Seven-One-Nine LLC (two miles), Solace Meds LLC (two miles), Starbuds (ten miles), StarryNight Management LLC in Trinidad (ten miles), Terrapin Care Station (five miles), TGS Management, the firm that oversees The Green Solution (twelve miles), The Health Center (two miles), The Honey Cellar (one mile), The Joint by Cannabis (two miles), Trill Alternatives (one mile) and Tumbleweed Dispensary (eleven miles).

The cost of these signs differs from place to place according to CDOT's Sponsor a Highway page, with companies agreeing to pay for cleanup from 12 to 26 times per year.

The site adds that "acknowledgement signs are not intended to be an advertising medium" — but that's what they've turned into for marijuana businesses in Colorado with few other alternatives.

Click to read the current Colorado Sponsor a Highway participants and locations and the Colorado Retail Marijuana Rules as of April 2017, the latest version.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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