Medical marijuana dispensaries should be allowed to advertise
I wasn’t working as a reporter in Delaware when the law creating the state’s medical marijuana program was passed in 2011, but I have been covering the subject since before First State Compassion – at the time First State Compassion Center – opened its doors as the state’s first compassion center in Wilmington in 2015. Since then, I’ve covered the opening of all four of Sussex County’s compassion centers. Most recently, it was Fresh Delaware in Seaford.
A brief conversation with that compassion center’s manager, Greg Huggler, reminded me of something I’ve long thought – the state’s compassion centers should be allowed to advertise.
Over the years, the law regulating the program has been amended and updated a number of times. For example, with the passage of Senate Bill 280 last year, compassion centers and safety compliance facilities that have 20 or more employees are required to have a Labor Peace Agreement with one or more unions. Other changes have included implementation of Rylie’s Law – named after local student Rylie Maedler – that allowed for pediatric patients, and allowing medical marijuana patients to legally own or buy a firearm.
These seem like reasonable changes, and it’s time for another to allow compassion centers to advertise. Currently, the state’s 11 compassion centers are prohibited from advertising medical marijuana sales in print, broadcast or by paid, in-person solicitation of customers. Basically, compassion centers are allowed to use social media and word of mouth or convince a local media outlet to do a story.
I reached out to Paul Hyland, Office of Medical Marijuana program director, to see what his thoughts were on allowing compassion centers to advertise. Hyland has overseen the statewide program since its infancy.
Hyland started by saying his office does not have a position on whether compassion centers should be able to advertise. The office is there to ensure the laws in place are followed, he said.
Hyland said the restriction about compassion center advertising is targeted toward limiting false or exaggerated claims that marijuana or cannabis cures medical conditions. Any claims about effectiveness should be verified through research, and unchecked advertising could mislead potential patients, he said.
However, he said, it would be helpful if the names and locations of compassion center retail locations were more widely disseminated.
“If potential patients knew a retail vendor was close by, it may advance their decision to apply for a patient card,” Hyland said.
If the law is changed and advertising is allowed, Hyland said, there would likely be a need for limitations, such as not being allowed to make unsupported medical claims about marijuana or cannabis products. In addition, advertising should not be geared toward anyone under the age of 21 or be attractive to children.
Hyland’s points are reasonable, and I agree there would have to be some limitations – we don’t need a picture of a 40-foot-tall bong on a Route 1 billboard – but patients shouldn’t also have to be social media savvy to know where they can get their medicine. I’m talking about basic information – hours of operation, location and contact information.
I’ll end with this: if liquor stores, alcohol producers, state-sponsored lotteries and casinos are allowed to advertise in Delaware, so should compassion centers. It doesn’t bother me at all that those types of businesses are allowed to promote themselves. However, someone would be hard pressed to convince me that alcohol and gambling, and their well-documented negatives, don’t cause as many problems as anything that might come from compassion centers being allowed to advertise.
King cake update
To the great disappointment of my kids, I was the lucky person to get the baby Jesus in the king cake we ordered from Po’ Boys in Milton for Fat Tuesday. It was literally in the last piece of cake that was eaten. As I was the person cutting up the cake, my kids swore I cheated. I swear I didn’t.
Joke of the Week:
My last column featured a joke on meteors. This week, we’re keeping it celestial. This joke is from an anonymous emailer, but that’s fine with me – I appreciate the back and forth. As always, send joke submissions to email@example.com.
Q: How do you organize a space party?
A: You planet.