NY legal marijuana: Marketing rules released

When devising New York rules for marijuana marketing and packaging, the state's Office of Cannabis Management sought to prevent any cannabis company from even unintentionally advertising its product to children.

"Making sure the packaging of cannabis products isn't cartoon-like in nature or attractive to children," Executive Director Chris Alexander said.

New York City Cannabis Industry Association co-founder David Holland agreed with some rules but said other requirements are too restrictive.

"I think it's very good that they don't want cartoon characters or things that become appealing to children," Holland said. "They're well-intentioned but there are some that are really hard to fathom."

The rules would forbid cannabis sellers from advertising on billboards within 500 feet of schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, public parks, or libraries. Advertisers may not use the words "organic," "craft," "weed," "pot," or "stoner."

Holland worried that cannabis companies might struggle to establish individual brands.

"It's going to be very limiting on people's creativity," he said. "How are people going to be able to package their products in a way that is identifiable?"

The state would also require all packaging to prominently feature the universal THC symbol.

"Making sure you know what you're putting into your body: it has to be clear," Alexander said. "There's still tons of space for businesses to be creative in their packaging."

Alexander stressed he and his team prioritized public health over branding.

The rules now enter a 60-day public comment period before going into effect.

Alexander expected to issue the first recreational dispensary licenses by the fall so the first dispensaries might open before the end of the year.