Drivers along Connecticut’s highways should not see any ads for Massachusetts dispensaries since Connecticut changed the rules on cannabis advertising earlier this year.
According to the law passed in May, only businesses licensed in Connecticut can advertise cannabis and cannabis-related services on billboards, and only during certain hours.
“When the Attorney General came and said, we couldn't have our cannabis billboards up, we said, no problem. We'll stop advertising cannabis,” said James McMahon, spokesperson for Green Gold Group in Charlton, MA.
Green Gold Group removed the words “cannabis dispensary” from its billboards. In the corner, you can see the word Apparel has been added.
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“We're advertising a separate business that runs alongside cannabis, but as a completely separate lane,” McMahon said. “Separate employees, separate building, it’s its own standalone.”
But Connecticut’s attorney general says it’s still a problem.
NBC Connecticut Investigates exclusively obtained a letter from the Attorney General’s office telling Green Gold Group the ads for its apparel business still violate Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act and requesting their removal.
The Attorney General’s Office tells NBC Connecticut at the time of publication, the letter had not yet been mailed to Green Gold Group, but it has since been sent.
Massachusetts business filings show Green Gold Group Apparel was registered at the end of May.
Just steps away from the dispensary is a small store selling t-shirts, hats and even athletic gear branded with the store’s logo. The company invited us in to check it out.
But when an investigator from the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office showed up unannounced, they reported the store was locked, with no visible hours of operation posted. The letter from the AG’s office says, “other than small signs posted near the door and on a pylon in front of the building there were no outward indications… that the business was an apparel shop open to the public.”
“I appreciate, I guess, the creativity here. But I would say that there's at least a couple of problems with it, if not more,” said Rep. Mike D’Agostino (D- Hamden).
D’Agostino, who chairs the legislature’s General Law Committee, says the biggest of those problems is the federal law that prohibits cannabis from being transported across state lines.
“It's encouraging someone to go there, buy their products, whether it's apparel, or obviously the cannabis right next door. I think that's what they're encouraging,” he said.
McMahon said Green Gold Group employees are clear with customers that cannabis products must be consumed in Massachusetts. He hopes the branded apparel will give the company recognition for its planned expansion into Connecticut.
“We've always tried to push the boundaries on what's new, and what's innovative within the confines of the law,” McMahon said.
It will likely be up to a judge to determine if the billboards can stay.
“Our advertising restrictions are very, very strict. I expect the industry groups to challenge them in court,” D’Agostino said.