Montana Senators Shoot Down House-Passed Bill To Ban Most Marijuana Ads

On Tuesday last week, a day after hearings drew sharp objections from representatives of the cannabis industry and media, the Senate’s Commerce, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee defeated a bill that would have banned much marijuana advertising in Montana. 

Before voting, the committee approved an amendment allowing marijuana businesses to make donations to charity causes and have their names listed as donors. 

The amendment would also permit businesses to sell products bearing their names or logos. The bill failed by a vote of 4-6. The committee unanimously voted to refer the bill.

The committee also on Tuesday voted down, then referred, House Bill 611, sponsored by Rep. Jane Gillette (R). 

That bill, which has also passed in the House, would have required businesses to include warning labels on marijuana packaging specifically directed to pregnant women. 

During a hearing on both bills on Monday, one proponent, Coleen Smith, executive director of Youth Connections in Helena, spoke for HB 351, the advertising-ban bill. 

She said, kids and families shouldn’t be forced to endure being bombarded by ads for this highly addictive substance.

Opponents of the bill argue the advertising ban is in conflict with language in HB 701, a bill to set an industry framework for last session, as well as rules set forth by the Revenue Department. 

Those rules allow for branding ads, but ban businesses from advertising a particular product. Kate Czolewa with the Montana Cannabis Industry Association contends the Cannabis Control Unit does not have enough personnel at this time to weed out bad actors, and the overwhelming majority of businesses are following “the spirit” of current policies.

Later in the hearing, Smith spoke again as the lone proponent in public for HB 611, and industry representatives said that the science cited by Gillette to justify warning labels on pregnant women is thin and unverified. The committee defeated HB 611 3-7. The committee agreed to refer the bill to a unanimous voice vote.