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New Hope For Cannabis Ads As U.S. Health Agency Recommends Reclassification Of Marijuana.

There is a new ripple in the ongoing effort by some broadcasters to clear the way for marijuana-related advertising on radio. The Department of Health and Human Services has recommended to the Drug Enforcement Administration that marijuana be reclassified as a lower-risk, Schedule III controlled substance, according to The Washington Post. Currently a Schedule I controlled substance, pot is lumped in the same group as heroin and LSD, meaning it has the potential for abuse with little to no accepted medical use.

The next step is for the DEA, which has the final say on how a drug is classified under federal law, to initiate its review. The process could take months, according to the Post. But if the DEA follows the health agency’s recommendation, marijuana would be classified in the same category as anabolic steroids and Tylenol with codeine.

Edward Conklin of the nonprofit U.S. Cannabis Council said rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III would mark “the most significant federal cannabis reform in modern history.”

While a reclassification would not legalize marijuana under federal law, it would “alter the landscape of cannabis in this country, boosting the regulated marijuana industry in states where it is legal and even facilitating more scientific research into the effects of the drug,” the Post reported.

The current federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance has radio & TV stations holding back out of fears they could face challenges to their licenses or fines at the Federal Communications Commission.

Twenty-three states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, and medicinal use is lawful in 38 states.

Broadcasters are watching the new development carefully, eyeing its potential to finally open the doors to a lucrative new advertising category.

“Our position is very simply, if marijuana is legal to use in Arizona, local media should be able to partner with those businesses to do smart, ethical and safe advertising,” said Chris Kline, president and CEO of the Arizona Media Association, the newly combined operation of the Arizona Broadcasters Association and Arizona Newspapers Association. “Yes, it will create opportunity for these local TV and radio stations at a time when revenue is not what it used to be and when local news is struggling in ways it wasn’t 10 years ago,” he told NPR news/talk affiliate KJZZ Phoenix (91.5).

Broadcast attorneys have not yet weighed in on the news. In a July 2022 blog post that looked at legislative proposals that would allow broadcasters to accept pot ads, attorney David Oxenford sounded a note of caution. “Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, as is the use of the radio airwaves to aid in its distribution. Because broadcasters are federal licensees, there is a heightened concern that those federal licenses could be jeopardized if broadcasters start accepting such advertising,” he wrote.

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