A downtown Haverhill billboard promoting marijuana use has been removed after Haverhill City Councilor Colin F. LePage personally petitioned Stoneham-based Clear Channel Outdoor. The ad near the corner of Essex and Locust Streets that once promoted online cannabis search engine Weedmaps was replaced earlier this week with a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration billboard encouraging seat belt use.
As LePage tells WHAV, while the sign is just one of over 1,350 Clear Channel displays in seven counties across the state, he sees the swap as a victory for Haverhill.
“This is a small victory in the whole scheme of things,” LePage told WHAV. He added that the change proves what can be done at the local level when there is more action and less talk on issues surrounding things like cannabis and youth prevention.
Haverhill students from Whittier Regional Vocational Technical and Haverhill High Schools, along with Nettle Middle and Golden Hill and Bradford Elementary Schools boarded buses just below the billboard when it featured the Weedmaps advertising, LePage said.
In addition to making his feelings known to Clear Channel Outdoor’s Director of Real Estate and Public Affairs Yano Amara earlier this month, LePage worked with his fellow Haverhill City Councilors to send a letter to the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, the Cannabis Control Commission and Attorney General Maura Healey asking for recommendations on how to handle advertising at the local level.
According to LePage, the Council hopes to clarify a study presented at the Sept. 11 meeting by Attorney John Sofis Scheft that said current state law prohibits marijuana advertising unless at least 85 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be at least 21 years old. In his presentation, Scheft asked the city adopt its own regulations since few, if any, places exist in Haverhill where young people are not present.