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No More Marijuana Ads, or Else!
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy is proving a point that marijuana dispensaries are against the law and "inappropriate" by attacking the media and the advertisers. The medical marijuana dispensaries — the ones the attorneys designate as "questionable" — that have sprouted up around California were warned earlier this month that if they didn't shut down the healing herb shops could face civil and criminal action. So far, out of the U.S. Attorneys in California, Duffy is the only one who is taking her battle to the advertising and media sector. The entire sector. She is quoted saying that she plans on targeting print, radio, and TV outlets, as well as the people those outlets work with to purchase and place the advertisements.

Here again is an interesting crossroads between the federal government, and business's right to free speech. Now according to Califorina law, businesses are allowed to dispense medical marijuana for medical purposes only. However, federal law prohibits businesses and other entities to place advertisments in any medium for illicit drugs which, according to California Watch, include marijuana. But then if the dispensaries are operating legally as a business, why should its right to advertise and distribute its message be taken away? In a Tickle the Wire article about this interesting ensuing battle, Duffy is quoted saying "...one has to wonder what kind of message is being sent to our children..." Really, Duffy? You're going to bring children into this? There are far worse things than advertising medical marijuana in our society that we should worry about when it comes to the "sanctity" of our youth.

Advertising, like it has been said many time and again, is the voice of business, regardless of the industry that business is in. Does the U.S. Attorney have a right to go after the media for simply ackowledging the rights of the legal dipensaries and provide them a venue to broadcast their message? It looks like Duffy is overstepping her territory.

Her problem isn't with the advertising; it's with the medical marijuana dispensaries themselves. If the courts prove that they are legal entities and therefore have rights like any other pharmaceutical drug company, she should leave the advertising alone. If the courts rule otherwise, then it is the responsibility of the law-abiding communicator or media representative to take the necessary steps to remove the advertising.

What are your thoughts? Does the medical marijuana dispensaries have any rights to advertise? Or is Duffy right to attack those media outlets that placed the ads? Or is it still too early to make a decision?

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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