The way Sen. David Farnsworth sees it, the decision by voters to legalize the sale of marijuana for medical uses does not mean they get to promote it.
So the Mesa Republican has introduced legislation which would ban billboard advertising for the drug in places they’re most likely to be seen. SB 1032 would make it illegal to advertise any drug illegal under federal law — and that includes marijuana — along state roads.
Whether that’s legal or not is up for debate.
Attorney Jeff Kaufman who has specialized in legal issues surrounding marijuana questioned whether the state could enact special rules for a product that is legal, at least under state law. He pointed out that judges in Arizona have said the state can’t use the federal prohibition as a reason to enact regulations that hamper the ability of marijuana dispensaries to operate.
“I think the bill, if enacted, would eventually be stricken down by the Court of Appeals as discriminating against a lawful form of medication,” Kaufman said.
Dan Barr, a lawyer with the First Amendment Coalition, sees it in a slightly different light.
He said that courts have given governments a certain amount of leeway in regulating “commercial speech.” For example, Barr noted, California has rules that prohibit advertising in a manner intended to encourage anyone under 21 from consuming the product and a strict ban on billboards within 1,000 feet of day-care centers and schools.
Kaufman and Barr agree that Farnsworth cannot legally do one of the things he wants: making it illegal to have signs touting the benefits of the drug or making claims about how legalization has worked out in other states.
That clearly is one of Farnsworth’s goals.
He specifically complained to Capitol Media Services about a billboard he saw which says