State: Dispensaries can't advertise specific marijuana strains – News-Press Now

The CEO of a St. Joseph dispensary said advertising has ground to a halt after a letter from the state, frustrating medical marijuana businesses.

Chris McHugh, CEO and president of Vertical Cannabis, said the letter has been interpreted by some dispensaries to mean no advertising of any kind is allowed outside of listing prices on the company’s website.

“I see both sides of it, (but) it is very difficult for dispensaries to get the word out on a product they want to discount (and) they just can’t,” McHugh said. “It’s frustrating, but we want to be compliant, so we do what we have to do.”

The text of the letter, obtained by industry magazine Greenway, was sent to all medical marijuana license holders.

In the letter, Andrea Balkenbush, the facility license and compliance director for the Medical Marijuana Regulatory Program at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the guidance is a result of “misunderstandings.”

Balkenbush wrote that dispensaries cannot have an advertisement that promotes specific products.

“For example, facilities are not allowed to advertise price discounts on a particular product because that would result in disbursing medical marijuana as part of a promotional event,” Balkenbush wrote.

McHugh said medical marijuana dispensaries now cannot have buy-one-get-one or similar promotions seen in other industries. Dispensaries may still offer discounts on certain products, according to McHugh, they just cannot advertise those discounts.

Both McHugh and Dan Viets, a lawyer and chairman of the group that led the effort to legalize medical marijuana, view the letter as new rules rather than a clarification of the existing framework.

“For the welfare of patients, there has to be competition,” Viets said.

He compared the types of advertisements dispensaries would publish to those published by pharmaceutical companies.

Balkenbush didn’t respond to

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