Marijuana: RTD defends ads but stresses support for police, no KushConII endorsement

Yesterday, Colorado Drug Investigators Association's Commander Jerry Peters explained why his organization had written a letter castigating RTD's decision to accept bus ads for KushConII, a marijuana-oriented convention taking place this weekend. While RTD spokesman Scott Reed says the ads will continue running through the event, he says he understands the CDIA's objections.

Moreover, Reed emphasizes that the banner's shouldn't be seen as a vote of approval for pot legalization.

"It is an advertisement for an event that is being held legally at the Colorado Convention Center," he notes, "and it is not an ad either for medical marijuana or for anything that is illegal, per se."

The line between these distinctions is slender, from his perspective. Although MMJ centers are legal in municipalities that allow them thanks to an amendment to the Colorado constitution, "they're illegal under federal law," Reed allows. That's why "RTD does not accept advertisements for medical marijuana dispensaries."

As for KushConII, Reed understands that no marijuana will be consumed at the convention center -- "so the issue is whether or not the event complied with our advertising polices. And it did. We had no legitimate reason to exclude the ads for the event. If there was an implication that the ads were for something that would be illegal, we would have had grounds to exclude them. But that was not the case."

Indeed, Reed thinks RTD might have been susceptible to a legal challenge from KushConII's organizers had it rejected the ads. Nonetheless, after hearing from Peters and the CDIA, RTD has gotten in touch with representatives from Lamar Outdoor Advertising, the firm that handles the agency's banners, and asked them "to put a disclaimer on there stating that the ad was paid for by, I assume, KushConII, to make it clear that it was not an RTD ad."

Peters said yesterday that such a tweak doesn't really address his organization's concern that the ads contribute to the "normalization" of a substance that he'd like to keep from children and drivers. But Reed believes "there should be no implication of endorsement for this or any other product, event or service" that's advertised on an RTD ad.

On top of that, he goes on, "we're very proud of the fact that we support law enforcement and emergency first responders. We very frequently provide buses for SWAT operations, training exercises, and if there are apartment fires or things like that. We work very closely with law enforcement, and we'll continue to do so."

Regarding a press release from KushConII in which Kush Magazine publisher Michael Lerner said RTD's decision to accept the ads represented "one more indicator that Colorado, where medical cannabis is legal and regulated, is on its way toward the full legalization of cannabis statewide," Reed says, "I think that's a leap. They do not have the authority to speak on behalf of RTD, and that's clearly not our position."

Page down to see the CDIA letter, the KushConII press release and a video showing the bus ads.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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

Latest Stories