The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bill that would permit cannabis advertising on broadcast television and radio stations. The legislation is included as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, which was passed by lawmakers in the House on Wednesday.
Under the provisions of the appropriations bill, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be barred from using appropriated funds to deny a broadcaster a license renewal or sale application for airing cannabis advertising in jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana. The FCC would also be prohibited from requiring a station to file an early license renewal application for broadcasting cannabis ads.
Current regulations allow the FCC to revoke a license from broadcasters that air advertisements for federally illegal products including weed, even in states that have passed laws legalizing cannabis. As a result, cannabis businesses are limited to advertising in other forums including print newspapers and magazines, online, billboards, cable television, satellite radio, and social media. Alex Siciliano, a spokesman for the National Associations of Broadcasters, said on Wednesday that the legislation passed in the House this week levels the playing field for cannabis advertising.
“For too long, local broadcasters have been stuck in a regulatory purgatory because of conflicting federal and state cannabis laws,” Siciliano said in a statement. “Today’s passage marks an important step towards allowing broadcasters to receive equal treatment for cannabis advertising that many other forms of media have enjoyed for years. While we are pleased to see the House act, broadcasters will continue to work with policymakers for a permanent resolution to this competitive disparity to the benefit of consumers.”
Broadcasting Groups Applaud Legislation
The spending bill was passed by the House Appropriations committee in June. The legislation gives broadcasters access to the growing market for cannabis advertising, which is expected to total $18.5 billion this year alone.
“We are pleased to see that this bipartisan language has advanced in the House today,” Siciliano said in a statement late last month. “As the vast majority of states have legalized cannabis in some form, today marks a long overdue step toward finally allowing broadcasters to receive equal treatment regarding cannabis advertising that other forms of media have had for years.”
David Donovan, president of the New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA), thanked lawmakers in the House “for recognizing the unfairness of the present situation with respect to cannabis advertising.”
“The provision in this House appropriations bill is a major step forward for leveling the playing field for local broadcasters,” Donovan said in a statement from the broadcasting industry group. “We believe the law of the state in which a station is licensed should determine whether a station can accept cannabis advertising if they so choose. We look forward to working with members of Congress and the Administration to help restore parity between local broadcasters and other media outlets.”
“We believe the law of the state in which a station is licensed should determine whether a station can accept cannabis advertising if they so choose,” Donovan added. “We look forward to working with members of Congress and the Administration to help restore parity between local broadcasters and other media outlets.”
Before the bill becomes effective, it must still be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden. The NYSBA noted that gaining Senate approval for the legislation may be a challenge.
“The appropriations process is notoriously complex, which means the bill may get stalled. Congress is likely to adopt an interim budget through a continuing resolution. At some point, perhaps after the mid-term elections, there will be a final vote. Even if it passes, the legislation is not a ‘silver bullet.’”
Because the cannabis advertising provisions were passed as part of an annual appropriations bill, the prohibition on the FCC taking action against broadcasters for airing weed ads would only be in effect for one year, beginning on October 1. For the marijuana advertising terms to continue, the appropriations language must be reauthorized each year.
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.