Haverhill Councilor Calls for Statewide Marijuana Advertising Ban; Plan Before Council Tonight

Haverhill City Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Haverhill City Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan says the city won’t need to regulate marijuana advertising—as discussed last week—because he hopes the state will outright ban pot-related billboards.

Sullivan placed an item on this week’s agenda, asking his colleagues to support a plan to ask the city’s statehouse delegation to nix marijuana advertising altogether. During an interview at WHAV, the councilor explained his proposal.

“This matter belongs in Boston at the statehouse because we need legislation filed to ban marijuana advertising on public billboards. It’s really as simple as that. Commonsense would dictate that if we already prohibit alcohol and tobacco from being on billboards—public billboards—then we should apply the same rule to marijuana,” he said.

Last Tuesday, councilors agreed to send the matter to committee after hearing a presentation by Councilor Colin F. LePage, school pediatrician John L. Maddox and Attorney John Sofis Scheft of the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance. LePage drove his point home by displaying a photograph of an actual downtown Haverhill billboard that promotes a smartphone app aimed at helping people find and buy marijuana. The image showed Haverhill students boarding a school bus just below the billboard.

Sullivan said the downside of the city trying to regulate billboards itself is a likely long and expensive court battle. “Honestly, that would probably and most likely lead to litigation—lawsuits—that we would then have to pay legal fees to fight. The state option is the proper option.”

Sullivan said he worked for legislators 20 years as an aide and chief of staff and it is not unusual for communities to make such requests for new laws. However, Sullivan says, he found it odd the state allowed such advertising in the first place.

“It’s just curious that we even need to do this because, by right, this form of advertising should have been prohibited from the start when they passed the legislation to finalize the rules and regulations and overseeing marijuana in Massachusetts,” Sullivan said.

Haverhill’s state legislative delegation is comprised of Sen. Diana DiZoglio and Reps. Andy X. Vargas, Linda Dean Campbell, Leonard Mirra and Christina Minicucci.

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