Why are Michigan Lawmakers Trying to Ban These Billboards?
Driving around Kalamazoo you'll never have to wander far before you find a billboard advertising a local marijuana dispensary. Admittedly, it was a bit surprising to see just how many dispensaries were in this one area. After all, I came from a state where marijuana was medically legal but even then, there were a LOT of gray areas as far as what was actually 'allowed'.
Now, two Michigan lawmakers want to ban marijuana dispensaries from using billboards as advertisement.
As reported by WXYZ News Channel 7, Rep. Mary Whiteford out of Allegan County is proposing a bill that would ban these billboards . Whiteford's reasoning? That there are some she just doesn't like.
In an quote to News Channel 7 she said,
I was going through, really, I saw two billboards that really bother me. I saw one that said we had a new state flower.
She went on to say that she's worried about the message being delivered to young children. The bill is also being supported by fellow Rep. Abdullah Hammoud of Dearborn.
However, dispensaries are already severely limited in how they can advertise. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency has a list of rules about this very thing. As well, an updated list of regulations from 2019 specifically says:
Marijuana products may not be advertised on any television program, radio program, internet website, or print publication unless there is reliable evidence that 70% of the audience is reasonably expected to be age 18 or older.
If we also ban dispensaries from advertising on billboards for the sake of protecting a passing child's eyes, how are they to maintain their business? After all, it's a legal product sold in a legal fashion with heavy competition targeted towards those who want to partake of said product. If this is the mindset then should we not also ban beer and alcohol advertisements on billboards? Anything that may be sexually implied? Anything that may start an uncomfortable conversation with your child?
I remember feeling uneasy as a child after seeing an image of a fetus on a billboard with the giant words saying, "You'll end up in hell if you have an abortion" or the uncomfortable talk my poor father had to have with me when we passed the "Vasectomy Man" billboard for a local doctor. Not to mention, I'm fairly certain I STILL remember a few Budweiser commercials from my childhood.
My point is this...there's a long list of current advertising that could "send the wrong message to young children". But, unless a marijuana billboard explicitly says "Hey kids, smoke some weed!" banning them feels like an overstep.
Parents, I do not envy you. Navigating the world and trying to raise a human at the same time is a task I would not be up for. And, I hope its obvious that I don't want your kids to be influenced to smoke weed before the age of 18. It's simply my opinion that banning billboards, especially ones that joke about a state flower, is not the solution.
The bill proposed by Rep. Mary Whiteford is still being constructed. No word on when it will be voted on.