Medical marijuana ad ban supportive, not punitive, councilman says

Earlier this week, Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz expressed philosophical support for a medical marijuana outdoor ad ban that would go beyond one targeting the areas near where kids congregate. Councilman Christopher Herndon confirms that he'll offer just such a proposal and tells us why he thinks it's needed.

"I have to give credit to Councilwoman Ortega," says Herndon -- a reference to Debbie Ortega, who's proposed banning advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, daycares and recreation centers. "She has brought this to my light and my attention -- and I did some more research about extending her proposal. I think the 1,000 feet limit is a great start, but there are children beyond that."

Herndon identifies himself as "a fan of the industry. But I think for this industry to continue to be successful, there are some things they don't need -- and every councilperson I've spoken to has a spinner story."

Indeed, sign spinners outside dispensaries seem to have fueled the various proposals -- and Herndon feels their use "isn't wise for the industry." As such, he asked himself, "How can we tailor this so it still gives businesses the opportunity to be successful, but at the same time removing things that I don't think helps them at all."

There's no consensus on an outdoor-ad ban among MMJ industry types. For instance, the Medical Marijuana Industry Group favors such a prohibition, while the Cannabis Business Alliance's Shawn Coleman sees anything beyond Ortega's proposal as a step too far. Herndon is also wary of a measure targeting ads of all kinds. "In Vermont, they have no advertising at all," he allows. "But I think businesses need to have the opportunity to advertise in some capacity. So I'm looking for a happy medium -- one that allows them to advertise where it's not in the face of people who don't need it, because the percentage of people who need it is so small, and where there's not a sign spinner on every corner."

At this point, Herndon is still roughing out the specifics of his ordinance in advance of Monday's 5:30 p.m. council meeting, which has Ortega's proposal on the agenda. But he believes "you need to have the name of your business on the business, and people should still be able to advertise in newspapers and on TV, radio, the Internet. I'm not one to blanket that entirely. We want this to be a win-win for everybody.

"I don't want to eliminate any businesses," he goes on. "I want to further legitimize the industry. And to do that, I think it's important for people to understand that this is for medical purposes -- and when you see the signage or the spinners, it gives the impression that it's more than medical."

If, during the November election, Colorado voters approve Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, or other proposed marijuana-legalization initiatives that have not yet earned their way onto the ballot, this particular argument will take on a very different character. Still, Herndon sees no reason for the council to wait. "We shouldn't dictate policy on what could happen," he says. "If Amendment 64 passes, we'll address it as need be."

His goal is to push his ordinance "concurrently with Councilwoman Ortega's bill, and then let the council members decide. So some dialogue still needs to occur."

In the meantime, he acknowledges that "some people think this is a punitive measure. It's not. We're supporters. We just need to make sure we're doing things responsibly."

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Initiative 70 would make pot use a right, regulate it like tobacco."

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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.
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