Colorado weed companies have found a clever way to get around strict advertising laws: sponsoring highways so that their brand names get in front of thousands of drivers.

Cannabis businesses in the state are restricted completely from using pop-up ads, and are not allowed to advertise in print, TV, or radio, unless they are able to prove that the audience is mostly 21 and over.

However, the state’s Sponsor a Highway program has offered companies a workaround which they have taken full advantage of.

66% of the state’s highways maintained by its Clean Colorado initiative are sponsored by cannabis companies. 51 weed retailers, cultivators, and manufacturers sponsor nearly 200 miles of road in the state.

This allows them to put up signage along the road which announces their sponsorship, and also might just appear right before the highway exit to their storefront.

“The highway signs were a loophole that was overlooked,” Nico Pento, government affairs director for the dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station, told the Denver Post.

“The rules governing highways signs are in a different section than rules governing the cannabis industry.”

Beyond circumventing the law, highway sponsorship offers other advantages to weed companies. For one, since the businesses are contributing to the upkeep of a public utility, it makes them look good.

“It presents marijuana stores in a positive light,” Harsha Gangadharbatla, associate professor of advertising, public relations and media design at University of Colorado Boulder, told the Post. “The money made from marijuana is put to something good, like keeping up roads and transportation that everyone uses.”

In addition, Gangadharbatla says the Clean Colorado signs “tend to stick out a little bit more than billboards, so consumers do pay a little bit more attention to anything that’s novel or different from the formats they’re used to.”Photo via Flickr/Alan Levine

Natalie