In June, HIGH TIMES succeeded in defeating legislation that would have required retail convenience stores in Colorado to keep cannabis magazines behind the counter, like pornography. But HIGH TIMES covers a broad spectrum of political, religious and lifestyle articles that are relevant to the marijuana user and industry. When challenged, the State of Colorado agreed that it was unconstitutional and the provision was dropped.
Now, in an effort to skirt that defeat, the Department of Revenue seeks to effectively ban HIGH TIMES and similar publications, as well as the flourishing cannabis industry, by targeting the life blood of commercialism: advertisers. If advertising money is cut off, the entire retail marijuana industry is impacted, as well as publications like HIGH TIMES, which has been the champion of free speech in this area. Without advertisers, marijuana-related publications and retail commercialism will undoubtedly falter. These proposed rules are a blatant form of censorship and must be defeated.
Under First Amendment law, the government can regulate the time, place and manner of free speech, but not its direct content. For instance, you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. We also have noise ordinances that prevent honking of horns in certain areas or at certain times. Their purpose is not to limit the message of the exercise of free speech, but rather, the method by which free speech is communicated. And, it’s applicable to all forms of speech, meaning you can’t yell things that might falsely endanger people by a crowd stampede or create unreasonable noise pollution simply because it makes you feel better in the exercise of your free speech. Society, the purported listener, has rights, too.
However, what Colorado is proposing is a blatant censorship drive to prevent the growth of the retail marijuana industry. According to Colorado’s new proposed rules, retail marijuana centers can’t advertise on television, radio, or advertise in print publications “whose primary target audience consists of individuals under the age of 21.” Furthermore, the proposed rules seek to ban online advertising of retail marijuana products and shops unless there is verification that the viewer is over 21. Lastly, the proposed laws seek to prevent targeted online advertising outside Colorado.
The true purpose of this thinly veiled censorship is to prevent the realization of Colorado’s Amendment 64, wherein voters approved of the decriminalization and legalization of recreational marijuana and the publication of articles which promote it. Colorado’s successes in passing marijuana-related legislation could not have been accomplished without the free exercise of speech, which it now seeks to take away. HIGH TIMES and industry special interest groups are fighting this censorship.
For 40 years HIGH TIMES has taken the fight to the legislatures, the courts and the people seeking to keep the right to free speech alive. That legacy lives on. HIGH TIMES filed its objections to the proposed laws with Colorado’s Department of Revenue today. Its legal team is already preparing litigation papers in the event that Colorado does not again voluntarily rescind this proposed legislation.
David Holland is now providing legal advice for the cannabis community. Follow him at @LegalizeItLaw.