I’ll let readers come up with their own puns about the “mile-high” club. But broad prohibitions on advertising for legal recreational marijuana enacted in many places are no laughing matter.
That's why it’s kind of a big deal that pot ads are now appearing in a somewhat unexpected medium — in-flight magazines — courtesy of Allegiant Air.
Allegiant Air’s Sunseeker in-flight magazine is carrying what it claims is the first-ever ad for legal weed, touting the wares of Acres Cannabis, a dispensary and kitchen based in Las Vegas, where Allegiant has its main hub, per the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the news.
Nevada is one of a handful of states that have recently legalized pot for recreational use. Acres belongs to a new generation of high-end dispensaries aiming to give the drug a classy gloss, centered on its gourmet kitchen. That is open to public view, where curious or mesmerized customers can watch professional chefs whip up a wide range of cannabis confections, including candy and cookies.
The Sunseeker ad reminds readers that marijuana is now legal in Nevada and directs them to the Acres store, located within walking distance of the famed Las Vegas strip. In future, the company may try to place ads in other in-flight magazines from airlines serving Las Vegas.
Sunseeker isn’t the only in-flight medium carrying pot-related ads. In June, Virgin America began carrying digital ads for Wikileaf, a price comparison app, which were displayed on seat-back screens on domestic flights.
The Sunseeker ad — promoting actual cannabis, not a related product — is significant. A number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana have also moved to severely limit all forms of advertising for the product. They cite the potential for exposure of underage individuals to pro-drug messages.
This includes various bans on TV, print, online, outdoor and radio advertising, among other media.
Federal regulations are another major hurdle, reflecting marijuana’s continued illegal status under federal law. Thus, businesses are technically prohibited from sending commercial flyers or buying newspaper advertising in any publication delivered by mail. Under the current regulatory regime, anyone sending ads through the mail is liable to prosecution. The U.S. Postal Service is required to report them to the Department of Justice.
In December 2015, the USPS announced a sweeping ban on marijuana advertising in all 50 states, declaring any publication containing ads for pot to be “non-mailable” everywhere in the country. Last year, members of Congress asked the USPS and DOJ for clarification as to whether offending publications will actually be prosecuted.
With the prospect of more stringent enforcement under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, most publishers are unlikely to take the risk.
Back in 2015, Cannabis Now magazine became the first marijuana-related publication to be sold on newsstands in airports across the U.S., through a national distribution agreement with Hudson News stores covering more than 50 major airports. The deal also includes distribution in Canadian airports.