On Jan. 21st, a federal court in New Mexico affirmed the freedom of speech of medical cannabis producer Ultra Health in a landmark case that will have huge impacts on the American cannabis industry and open up a new door for cannabis content and marketing.
Ultra Health, which calls itself “New Mexico’s #1 cannabis company”, applauded the decision, with Ultra Health lawyer Bryan Egolf saying:
“Judge Parker’s decision will be heard throughout the country. We now have a Federal Court decision upholding licensed medical cannabis producers’ fundamental rights, including the rights protected by the First Amendment.
Licensed medical cannabis producers now know that their work serving patients is protected under the law and the United States Constitution.”
Ultra Health vs. New Mexico State Fair officials
It all started when the New Mexico State Fair tried to restrict Ultra Health’s vendor display at the 2017 State Fair.
On the vendor application form, the medical cannabis producer listed what it wanted to bring for its display, which included a “cannabis clone,” a “microscope,” “educational materials,” and a “rosin press lavender demonstration area”. The lavender was to be used in the place of cannabis, to show people how rosin is made.
But the State Fair banned all of that, saying:
“You may not bring… any and all cannabis and cannabis derived products including CBD products.”
It went on:
“Moreover, you may not bring any type of drug paraphernalia that could be used to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the human body any type of cannabis or other controlled substance.
You are also precluded from displaying any image of the above restricted items in any way to include banners, flyers, clothing, or any other medium.”
It gets so ridiculous that Ultra Health was prohibited from bringing “a shovel, and even a picture of a shovel because [w]ithin the context of how that [item] is going to be used, it would fall underneath the paraphernalia clause”.
That’s when the company filed a complaint, alleging New Mexico State Fair officials infringed on the rights guaranteed under the 1st and 14th Amendments, which guarantees freedom of speech and equal protection of the laws, respectively.
The judge found the State Fair’s “restrictions as applied to Ultra Health were unreasonable and violated Ultra Health’s First Amendment right to free speech” and ordered the Fair to pay Ultra Health’s attorney fees.
Unreasonable restrictions that specifically single out cannabis reveal the stigma is still very real
This isn’t the first time that Ultra Health has faced unreasonable restrictions. In the summer of 2016, the company was denied a sponsorship in the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival due to being a medical cannabis company, which event organizers said went against its goal of being “family friendly”- a similar defence used by the State Fair officials.
These restrictions are really a lot of hype over nothing and only shows how hard decades of anti-cannabis brainwashing is to fight. But at least the courts in the USA are starting to realize you can’t censor cannabis- especially when it’s being used medically.
Hopefully, that common sense catches on in Canada, where it’s actually legal, yet so heavily regulated that you have situations where major cannabis expos and events are banned from having any cannabis on-site.
So while this is a positive sign, whether or not cannabis ads end up being as ubiquitous and socially accepted as alcohol commercials or pharmaceutical drugs remains to be seen.