Marijuana Billboards: They’re Here

The first highway-side ads for cannabis have arrived in Massachusetts.

Photo via iStock/Nicholas Belton

As Massachusetts sails past new milestones on its way to a fully functioning legal recreational marijuana marketplace, a new one was reached today: The state’s first pot billboards.

The Boston Globe reports that a roadside ad campaign for a dispensary company was slated to make its debut on Monday. The ads are for New England Treatment Access, which has locations in Brookline and Northampton. They’re for medical, not recreational, marijuana. The first non-medical pot shops will not be permitted to open until this coming summer.

The billboards read “Why Wait for Better Health?” along with contact info for NETA, and can be found on the Mass Pike in Chicopee and near the I-93 exit, and on Route 28 in Somerville, the Globe reports.

Just how, exactly, advertising would work for marijuana has been the subject of a lot of debate. Remember that anti-legalization TV ad that depicted a suburban town overrun by marijuana supermarkets and strip mall shops with big pot leaves and windows full of pot-spiked candy? And remember all that talk of marijuana stores becoming as common and pervasive as McDonald’s and Starbucks? So the rules hashed out by legislators as part of a rewrite of the landmark legalization are pretty strict, in an effort to keep pot businesses from advertising to kids, among other things.

It looks like this iteration of roadside ads played it safe. Another pro-marijuana billboard, which stirred controversy when it included the phrase “states that legalized marijuana had 25% fewer opioid-related deaths” had to be taken down. It’s clear a lot is about to change, in terms of the kinds of promotions we see for the soon-to-be billion-dollar industry. We’ll have to see which other pot entrepreneurs will soon start competing for our eyeballs, and how.

Meanwhile, the state has begun airing public awareness ads that reflect the new reality in Massachusetts: It’s legal to use marijuana, but not to drive high. Depicting some very stoned people goofing up around the house, they use some humor to get that message across.

Today, at least one major opponent of recreational weed, Kevin Sabet, is not taking the news of the billboards well. “This is your country on Big Tobacco all over again,” he tweeted Monday.