Colorado Greenlights Cannabis Billboards

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, January 16, 2020

Colorado, a pioneer in marijuana legalization, has revised its rules to allow pot ads on billboards. The new rules call for 500-feet billboard buffers from schools, places of worship, and public playgrounds. 

This rule change in Colorado reflects broader points:

- Norms are emerging for cannabis ads; with common threads of regulation

- Government sees parallels between regulation of alcohol and marijuana marketing

Colorado’s Constitution, says a state compliance tip sheet dated Jan. 7, calls for regulation of marijuana similar to alcohol in certain key respects. The 500-foot spacing from schools “aligns with standards” of beer, wine, and distilled spirits advertising, said Colorado’s Department of Revenue.



Previously, Colorado enforced a general prohibition against marijuana ads on billboards, with an exception for on-premise signs.

Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division of its revenue agency reviewed the state’s advertising rules last year and made changes effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Current rules define adult audiences for purposes of advertising and event sponsorship, and also spell out new requirements for outdoor advertising.

Prior rules in Colorado carry over regarding cannabis ads:

- No deception

- No appeal to minors

- No unsolicited internet pop-up ads

- No claims marijuana products are safe because they are regulated

- No marketing to cell phones unless the mobile device has an app installed by the owner, the owner is of legal age, and the marketing includes “an easy opt-out feature”

Voters in Colorado approved adult-use recreational marijuana in 2012, leading to legalization in 2014.  By 2019, the state had collected more than $1 billion in marijuana revenue.  Eleven states have legalized recreational cannabis (Illinois is the most recent, effective Jan. 1).

In Colorado, cannabis dispensaries commonly sponsored official “Adopt a Highway” signs as a means of brand exposure.

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