Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Monday, September 10, 2018

Advertising for Addiction: Cannabis Advertising in need of Regulation?

Bilboard CroppedThe marijuana legalization train is full steam ahead as more than half of the states have passed legislation legalizing marijuana for medical use and more than a handful allowing recreational use among adults. In states that have allowed recreational adult use, dispensary advertisements are relentlessly marketing the product to all parts of the adult population.

The Atlantic recently published an article by Annie Lowrey, America's Invisible Pot Addicts, describing the often mocked or ignored position that marijuana addiction is real, is prominent, and needs to be addressed.

For Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, the most compelling evidence of the deleterious effects comes from users themselves. “In large national surveys, about one in 10 people who smoke it say they have a lot of problems. They say things like, ‘I have trouble quitting. I think a lot about quitting and I can’t do it. I smoked more than I intended to. I neglect responsibilities.’ There are plenty of people who have problems with it, in terms of things like concentration, short-term memory, and motivation,” he said. “People will say, ‘Oh, that’s just you fuddy-duddy doctors.’ Actually, no. It’s millions of people who use the drug who say that it causes problems.”

Users or former users I spoke with described lost jobs, lost marriages, lost houses, lost money, lost time. Foreclosures and divorces. Weight gain and mental-health problems. And one other thing: the problem of convincing other people that what they were experiencing was real. A few mentioned jokes about Doritos, and comments implying that the real issue was that they were lazy stoners. Others mentioned the common belief that you can be “psychologically” addicted to pot, but not “physically” or “really” addicted. The condition remains misunderstood, discounted, and strangely invisible, even as legalization and white-marketization pitches ahead.

Despite medical professionals’ concerns and actual users’ testimony that marijuana addiction is real and has the potential to seriously damage the lives of addicts, advertisements continue to tout marijuana’s many uses and proclaim that it is safe. 

Advertisements for delivery, advertisements promoting the substance for relaxation, for fun, for health. “Shop. It’s legal.” “Hello marijuana, goodbye hangover.”

Sellers are targeting broad swaths of the consumer market—soccer moms, recent retirees, folks looking to replace their nightly glass of chardonnay with a precisely dosed, low-calorie, and hangover-free mint. Many have consciously played up cannabis as a lifestyle product, a gift to give yourself, like a nice crystal or an antioxidant face cream.

Lowrey addresses many other concerns about the growing support for marijuana legalization at the state level without federal involvement including: lack of food and drug testing and regulation, medical advice being issued by growers and retailers that are not medically trained, the ever-increasing potency of different strains of cannabis, and the potential consumer abuse that arises from business goals of maximizing profit regardless of whether heavy use by certain customers is actually safe.  She does not suggest that prohibition is a viable alternative. The strain on government budgets created by marijuana-related enforcement is not necessarily proportionate to the potential harm legalized marijuana use presents.

Billions of dollars are spent on the war on drugs and millions of individuals are prosecuted for petty marijuana offenses on the government’s dime while local, state, and the federal government bodies stand to generate billions of tax dollars in legalization. The savings in marijuana-related expenditures and potential tax gains means a great deal of revenue is at stake. But Lowrey suggests there should be limits imposed on advertising to prevent mass addiction that could prove detrimental to the welfare of consumers in the long run.

The tobacco industry has been down this road and its tale may be telling with regard to what the marijuana industry can expect in the future. Mandates to restrict advertisement activities, requirements for payments into compensation funds for injured consumers, and demands for FDA testing on products may be on the horizon if and when the federal government decides to step in and regulate the exploding cannabis industry.

- Ashley Goldman

September 10, 2018 in Advertising, Business, Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

No Trademark for “THC Tea” . . . Because It Does Not Contain THC

AIt’s well known that applicants have stuck out repeatedly with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in trying to register trademarks for cannabis products.  The PTO reasons that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, that same federal law shouldn't be use to protect band names in an illegal product.  (Think of it like getting an actual trademark on "Murder, Inc.")

But marijuana culture is cool and edgy, so what about applicants who sell legal products but want to capitalize on the coolness of marijuana?

Well, they lost a round last fall in front of the Trademark Trial & Appeals Board, in a case involving something called "THCTea." The product itself had no THC in it, and therefore didn’t run afoul of the rules prohibiting trademarks for illegal substance. But because (again) it had no THC in it, the product ran afoul of the rules banning deceptive trademarks. The net result seems to be that you can’t get a trademark for a cannabis product, and you also can’t get a trademark for a non-cannabis product that pretends to be one.

Trademarks in this area are confusing, but Chicago lawyer Scott Slavick of Brinks Gilson & Lione has a very nice piece in Inside Counsel (free registration required) on the nuances of the THCTea case and the problems of deception in this area.  Recommended.

January 9, 2016 in Advertising, Business, Commercial Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Daily News Roundup: Friday, October 10, 2014

Daily RoundupProsecutors Seek to Revoke Adrian Peterson Bail for Marijuana Use "Presumably, someone close to Adrian Peterson told the embattled Minnesota Vikings running back to lay low while his felony child abuse case was ongoing and his NFL future was up in the air.  The opposite of laying low would be to smoke some marijuana before a court appearance, then tell a court employee during a urine test that you "smoked a little weed," as Peterson allegedly did on Wednesday according to Fox 26 in Houston."

DEA Taking Close Look at  Marijuana Industry Investors: "U.S. investors in Canada's medical marijuana industry are betting they will not fall under the scrutiny of U.S. law enforcement officers -- but it is a risky bet.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has already been tracking investments made in state-sanctioned marijuana business in the United States. When asked by Reuters about the DEA's view of U.S. investments in Canadian marijuana, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said the agency is 'most interested in those types of activities.'  After the Reuters report, shares in Canadian medical marijuana companies fell sharply . . . ."

Marijuana Sales Up in Colorado: Marijuana sales in Colorado saw a 10 percent bump in August — and industry leaders don't expect that growth to slow anytime soon.  The sales of recreational and medical marijuana in Colorado each jumped more than 10 percent from July to August 2014, according to numbers released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Revenue."

Roof Explodes in Florida Grow House Fire:  "A suspected marijuana grow house caught fire in Orange County on Thursday morning . . . .  About $3.2 million worth of marijuana was removed from the home after the fire, according to deputies.  The residents of the home are nowhere to be found.  Neighbors said they've lived in the home for a month or two, and were secretive.  Investigators said the sloppy grow house rigging likely contributed to an electrical fire upstairs."

Analyst:  Marijuana Use Increases Beer Sales:  "Beer has no need to fear weed.  The legalization of medical marijuana has helped beer sales, contrary to previous research that pointed to a decline, according to a note from Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling."

October 10, 2014 in Advertising, Banking, Business, Law Enforcement, Really Stupid, Stocks | Permalink | Comments (0)