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The Great California Pot T-Shirt Ban is Dead

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Photos Taylor Kent for Cannabis Now


The Great California Pot T-Shirt Ban is Dead

A bill that proposed banning cannabis marketing has died, but may return next year.

A yes vote on a bill that was set to limit cannabis marketing in the Golden State, Senate Bill 162, failed to meet an important Sept. 1 deadline that would have given lawmakers two more weeks to pass it. The bill would have put major restrictions on the way cannabis businesses would be allowed to market to consumers in California’s forthcoming legal recreational market by banning everything from clothing to billboards.

SB 162 was sponsored by Santa Monica State Senator Ben Allen and was being backed the American Academy of Pediatrics and the California Police Chiefs Association. The death of the bill last week was a bit of a surprise to Allen and even advocates who, a few weeks ago, presumed it would be tough for members of the California legislature to vote no on this kind of “save the children” proposal. Allen told the Los Angeles Times:

“The Legislature in the past has wisely prohibited advertising with branded merchandise by tobacco companies, expressly because items like hats and T-shirts are known to entice kids to smoke. This was a commonsense measure to apply similar restrictions that would help prevent marijuana use by teens.”

The California Cannabis Industry Association was among those in Sacramento standing against the bill as they believe the concept of advertising to children is irresponsible and was a topic that was covered clearly by Proposition 64 last fall, when voters legalized marijuana for adult recreational use.

“Our members are very happy, CCIA did stand in opposition,” said CCIA Communications and Outreach Director Josh Drayton. “It’s not that our members don’t accept and support reasonable solutions to issues that are arising but on this one, we felt Prop 64 made it pretty clear the cannabis industry could not be marketing to minors.”

Some of the language in SB 162 wasn’t crazy, but the branding stuff seemed to go a bit overboard, we asked Drayton his take on the balance of it all.

“There were so many loopholes in [the bill] as well,” he said. “One thing is they’re trying to put these restrictions on companies following heavy regulations while you can go down to a skate or surf shop and buy something with a pot leaf all over it, as long as it wasn’t representing a brand.”

In Drayton’s eyes, there are a lot of factors in play for whether the bill will have legs next year.

“We’re going to wait to see how the [legalization] rollout really happens,” he said. “I think there are going to be obstacles and hurdles that we haven’t anticipated as of yet. Those are going to need immediate fixing. Then we’re going to see some long term cleanup language for many different issues that will pop up.”

When asked how that might apply to SB 162 specifically, he couldn’t say, but noted, “it’s all on the table.”

Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association feels other adult products have laid out a pretty clear road map for cannabis.

“I think we could already look to a product like alcohol,” Smith said. “While alcohol is far more dangerous, it’s a precedent. It’s an adult product that does have some limitations on advertising. I think that should be kind of a starting point.”

We asked Smith if, in that context, cannabis brands should be allowed in retail clothing stores alongside Budweiser and Jack Daniels apparel.

“Again I’d say it’s an adult product and should be treated as such,” said Smith. “There should be no question marketing to children is unacceptable and not in the spirit of the law which was to regulate and control cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. So in the same way alcohol and tobacco can’t market to children I think it should be similar with cannabis.”

Smith, even with his focus on promoting a responsible cannabis industry, simply does not see why you shouldn’t be able to have a T-shirt.

“I think there are already cannabis T-shirts in major stores around the country,” he said. “Good thing it’s not moving forward because it seems like overreaching regulations to me.”

TELL US, do you own any cannabis clothing items?

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