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Why Are so Many Colorado Cannabis Companies Sponsoring Highways?

Marijuana producers and dispensaries are strictly prohibited from most forms of advertising in Colorado, but a state law loophole allows them to sponsor state highway cleanups, and place their names on roadside signs.

In Colorado, cannabis businesses are unable to use TV, radio or billboard advertising unless they can be certain that most of the audience seeing the advertisement is 21 or older. This is on top of the numerous issues faced when using social media and digital advertising – due to Facebook, Google and other companies shutting down ads for state-legal marijuana due to federal and international laws and restrictions.

Currently, 51 cannabis dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers and edible producers sponsor roadways throughout the state, according to the Adopt a Highway Maintenance Corporation. Although they represent less than half of all organizations that participate in the Clean Colorado program, their reach spans about 198 miles (318 kilometers) , or 66%, of the roads actively sponsored, The Denver Post reported.

“The rules governing highways signs are in a different section than rules governing the cannabis industry,” said Nico Pento, government affairs director for Boulder-based Terrapin Care Station, which operates six dispensaries in the Denver metro area. “The highway signs were a loophole that was overlooked.”

The program is officially run through the Colorado Department of Transportation, and sponsoring a highway pays for the clean up for that stretch of roadway. In return, the companies get their logo placed on a sign, often near the exit where the business is located.

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While many are looking at this purely as a workaround for a lack of means to advertise, those businesses that are sponsoring the highways see it as mutually beneficial. Nearly 200 miles of highway are being cleaned thanks to the newly legal industry – and they get a little extra exposure for their company or business as well.

In the future, billboards featuring cannabis companies in Colorado might be more prominent. A 2019 law legalized outdoor advertising in this form if it remains 500 feet from any schools, places of worship or playgrounds. However, they will still be subject to any local restrictions and regulations.

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