Colorado Regulators Weigh Banning Marijuana Businesses at Events

Key Points
  • Regulators in Colorado have proposed a ban on marijuana businesses participating in private events which do not have state permits.
  • If implemented, the ban would severely limit advertising opportunities for cannabis brands in Colorado.
  • The proposal has faced backlash from industry insiders who argue that it would hurt licensed businesses and hinder their chances of survival.
  • The proposed ban may be removed as final rules are adopted on January 8th.

A proposed ban on marijuana businesses in Colorado participating in private events that don’t have their own state permits drew strong pushback from the industry this week, as regulators near the end of a new rulemaking period for cannabis companies.

If implemented, the move would cut off a critical advertising avenue for brands, since there are very few licensed cannabis events, while unlicensed events are myriad, Westword reported.

The proposal follows months of crackdowns by Colorado officials on events where cannabis was consumed, Westword reported. The enforcement has been undertaken by both the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses as well as the state Marijuana Enforcement Division.

A MED spokesperson said during an Oct. 30 hearing – at which many cannabis industry insiders spoke against the proposed ban – that the idea emerged from “feedback” from some stakeholders, but didn’t elaborate on where the proposal originated.

Several companies and trade organizations said the proposal would only lessen their chances of survival, given that social consumption business models have yet to fully take off in Colorado. There are only five licensed marijuana consumption businesses and mobile buses, Westword reported. Other cannabis-friendly events are much more commonplace and can be valuable for brands to connect with consumers.

“Regulated marijuana businesses have been severely limited in how they can advertise their businesses since the inception of our program in Colorado,” marijuana attorney Rachael Ardanuy of RZA Legal told regulators. “This addition is really a step in the wrong direction. It would really hurt licensees of all types and all brands. … At this point in our state, nearly 100% of consumption takes place in private places or illegally in public.”

Two of the five licensed consumption businesses – both mobile buses – spoke in opposition to the proposed rule, as did trade organization the Marijuana Industry Group.

The Oct. 30 meeting was the last hearing before final rules will be adopted and revealed on Jan. 8. A MED spokeswoman emphasized that the draft form may yet significantly change, meaning the proposed ban may be removed.

“What you see today may or may not be adopted by the state licenses authority,” she said.