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Cannabis Companies Adopt Highways to Get Around Ad Restrictions




Colorado cannabis companies found a loophole in the state’s restrictions on cannabis billboards and advertisements. According to data from the Adopt a Highway Maintenance Corporation, there are currently 51 dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers and edible producers that have adopted highways throughout Colorado.

Clean Colorado is the program used to maintain roadways and provide companies with sponsorship signs that are strategically placed. Cannabis companies accounted for nearly two-thirds of the roadways covered by Clean Colorado.

Overall, the span of the reach from cannabis companies amounts to 198 miles, or 66 percent of the roads actively sponsored.

“The rules governing highways signs are in a different section than rules governing the cannabis industry,” Nico Pento, government affairs director for Boulder-based Terrapin Care Station, told The Denver Post. “The highway signs were a loophole that was overlooked.”

Colorado’s advertisement restrictions are notoriously strict compared to some of the other states with recreational cannabis. Similar bans on cannabis billboards have moved forward in California cities. Massachusetts is a little more accepting of cannabis-related billboard ads. Cannabis companies cannot easily advertise on TV, radio and print as cannabis-related ads must prove that the audience is mostly made up of adults 21 and over.

The best-known highway sponsorship program is Adopt a Highway, but another program called Sponsor a Highway is more accepting of cannabis-related companies. Adopt a Highway was launched in the ‘80s to address the growing litter problem in America, by utilizing volunteers. The organization now sponsors programs in 22 states. For the Sponsor a Highway program, companies instead pay a fee to provide a cleanup crew in exchange for a sign bearing a logo that is displayed alongside the highways.

Harsha Gangadharbatla is associate professor of advertising, public relations and media design at University of Colorado Boulder. Harsha Gangadharbatla sees the program to be agreeable.“It presents marijuana stores in a positive light,” Gangadharbatla said. “The money made from marijuana is put to something good, like keeping up roads and transportation that everyone uses.”