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Radio News: Cannabis ads may or may not be coming to the public's airwaves

Jun 19, 2022 11:33 pm

The Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on May 14, 2018, allowing states to legalize gambling on sporting events. That led to radio and television stations being able to accept advertisements for sports gambling. Anyone in a state that recently legalized gambling, saw and heard thousands of ads for sports betting on TV and radio. Since 1996, 37 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted laws allowing legal access to cannabis, with 15 states and the District of Columbia passing laws legalizing cannabis for adult recreational use. Many radio and television executives hope they get the same advertising bonanza from cannabis that they received from the gambling industry. The difference is there has been no Supreme Court ruling, nor any national legislation passed, or federal executive order decreed, allowing those advertisements on the public airwaves. The Federal government still considers cannabis illegal, and while the drug is currently allowed in both New York and Massachusetts, it is a federal offense to buy cannabis in one state, and then take it across state lines. The Republican-appointed FCC Commissioners Nathan Simington and Brendan Carr have both spoken recently about how broadcasters in states where cannabis has been decriminalized or legalized cannot accept ad dollars from dispensaries, Inside Radio reports. That could change, at least temporarily, soon. Broadcasters backed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (H.R. 3617), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in April and would decriminalize cannabis in federal law. But Republicans in the Senate are blocking the bill. To get around that, Democrats in the House have recently included language in the Financial Services and General Government funding bill that says the FCC could not use federal funds to penalize TV or radio broadcasters for airing cannabis ads where it is legal. If passed, this funding bill would legalize cannabis ads in states where it is legal, but only for the one year the bill covers, from this Oct. 1 until Sept. 30, 2023. The spending bill was voted out of the subcommittee on June 16 and now heads to the full House Appropriations Committee for a voice vote, before the entire House can vote on it. But Republicans are still attempting to strip the cannabis language out of the bill before future votes, so an influx of cannabis ads may or may not be coming to the public airwaves.