ACLU: Proposed Medical Marijuana Billboard Ban Unconstitutional

News 9's Storme Jones gathers reaction to a proposed ban on billboards that promote medical marijuana.

Friday, January 17th 2020, 6:20 pm

A bill by an Oklahoma lawmaker would ban medical marijuana billboards. However, the ACLU says if passed, it would likely be found unconstitutional.

“A billboard is speech,” ACLU Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said. “Using a billboard, whether that’s to communicate a political message or to communicate a commercial message is speech, and the constitution says you can regulate that in very narrow circumstances.”

SB1257 by Mark Allen (R- Spiro) says "medical marijuana shall not be advertised on any billboard" in the state. It defines a billboard as “a freestanding outdoor advertising sign located on industrial, commercial or residential property."

News 9 reached out to Allen Friday, but did not hear back.

For “Legal Limit” dispensary owner Matt Eaton, the ban is more than arguing over a legal theory. It's big business.

“The billboard increased our traffic quite a bit,” he said. “We have a lot of older demographic that wouldn’t have know about us. Fifty percent of our clientele are 50-plus.”

He said federal regulations have kept them off most advertising platforms.

“Traditional marketing isn’t even a game for us to play because of the restrictions.” Eaton said.

The bill would not ban signage at dispensaries, only on properties not owned by dispensaries.

“I’ve got people in here that nothing has worked for them,” Eaton said. “Then they try cannabis and it fixes their problem. So why are you trying to restrict that with all of these different laws and bills that you are trying to push?”

“This legislation in it’s current form is unconstitutional, an attack on the industry and frankly, it’s an attack on the medicine that many patients in Oklahoma are relying on,” Kiesel said.

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