The effort to allow cannabis ads on local radio and TV is fading. | Story

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Broadcasters’ hopes of cashing in on the cannabis legalization trend took a step forward on Wednesday. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a series of budget bills on a 220-207 vote, including one that would pave the way for local radio and TV stations to accept cannabis ads as long as they are located in a state where the drug has been legalized.

As Indoor Radio First reported last month, the language that would open the door for broadcasters to air cannabis ads was hidden deep within the federal budget proposal in the Financial Services and General Government section of the huge federal budget. This would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from taking administrative action against broadcasters who accept cannabis advertisements, as long as cannabis has been legalized in the state or jurisdiction in which the station is licensed. But even in places where local laws haven’t changed, the FCC wouldn’t be able to prosecute a station if it accepts advertisements from a company selling hemp, hemp-derived CBD products, or other cannabinoid products derived from hemp.

The Safe Advertising Coalition — the group of state broadcast associations that advocates for cannabis ads — says the change recognizes the injustice of the current situation with cannabis advertising.

“This provision passed by the House is a major step forward in leveling the playing field for local broadcasters and radio broadcasters,” said David Donovan, president of the New York State Broadcasters Association and head of the Safe Advertising Coalition. “The provision makes it clear that the law of the state in which a station is licensed must determine whether a station can accept cannabis advertising if it chooses,” it said in a statement.

Attention now turns to the Senate where cannabis ads face a steeper climb as Democrats must secure at least ten Republican votes. Broadcast lobbyists tell Indoor Radio that they expect several GOP senators to oppose the liberalization of drug advertising rules. But Donovan remains optimistic. “We look forward to working with the US Senate and the FCC to help restore parity between local broadcasters and other media,” he said.

Since the cannabis exclusion appears in a budget bill, if approved, it would only be in effect during the budget year that begins October 1. But if the experiment proves successful, it could serve as a way to convince lawmakers or the FCC to make the exemption for cannabis advertising permanent.

In the meantime, the National Association of Broadcasters called the House vote an “important step” to allow broadcasters to be treated the same as other media when it comes to cannabis advertising.

“While we are delighted to see the Chamber act, broadcasters will continue to work with policymakers for a permanent resolution of this competitive disparity for the benefit of consumers,” NAB spokesman Alex Siciliano said.

Currently, 37 states, three territories and the District of Columbia (DC) allow the medical use of cannabis products. Nineteen states, two territories and DC have passed measures to regulate cannabis for non-medical adult use. In these states, local radio and television stations are currently unable to accept advertisements from legally licensed cannabis distributors, lest it jeopardize their broadcasting license.

The budget bill would prevent the FCC from using money to deny a license renewal or station sale application as punishment for airing cannabis or cannabis-derived advertising. The bill would also prohibit the FCC from requiring that an advance license renewal application be filed by a station to take these ads. And the FCC would be prohibited from imposing fines.

It’s unclear how many advertising dollars might be paid to broadcasters by cannabis companies, and estimates of the entire advertising market are hard to come by. According to Statistica, cannabis advertising spending in North America is expected to reach $1.6 billion in 2022.

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