SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Christian Examiner) – More than 40 years after Congress banned cigarette ads on television and radio, California is set to allow marijuana ads on everything from Monday Night Football to reality television.
By a margin of 56-44 percent, voters in the Golden State Tuesday passed Proposition 64, which not only legalized the recreational use of marijuana but also permitted advertising for pot. Specifically, the language in Prop 64 says that any "broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital" ads shall be displayed only "where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older, as determined by reliable, up-to-date audience composition data."
Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, said the 71.6 percent threshold is not high enough to keep ads from children.
"There is virtually nothing on broadcast television that would be excluded from this wording," Winter told the Christian Examiner, expressing concern that kids will see the commercials. "Ads would be allowed in every football game, every sporting event. We're talking about shows like The Voice, Dancing With The Stars. Even a show like The Middle."
The only way the law could be reversed is via another initiative or a court order.
No one knows what types of ads will be pushed. Will there be specific brands of marijuana? Will it be an ad for a marijuana growers association?
"It's the Wild West," he said. "How ironic that you cannot have a Marlboro commercial but you can have a cannabis commercial."
Cigarette ads were banned from broadcast TV and radio in 1972.
FCC policy requires that broadcasters – in order to obtain a license -- use the public airwaves in a way that serves the public interest. That leads to the question: Do marijuana ads violate FCC policy?
"We're not sure," Winter said, adding the PTC is studying the issue. But even if FCC rules prohibit marijuana on broadcast TV, that still would allow pot ads on cable, which is not under similar regulation.
The goal, he said, is "to protect as many children as possible from the marketing."
Voters in Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada also legalized the recreational use of marijuana Tuesday. Recreational usage already was legal in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington.