Colorado Bill Would Force Social Media Platforms To Ban Users Who ‘Promote’ Marijuana, Psychedelics And Hemp Products

Colorado Bill Would Force Social Media Platforms To Ban Users Who ‘Promote’ Marijuana, Psychedelics And Hemp Products

A center-right think tank is raising alarm about a Colorado bill that it says would make it illegal to talk positively about marijuana online. The prohibition would also apply to many hemp products as well as some federally legal pharmaceuticals.

Among other provisions, SB24-158—a broad proposal around internet age verification and content policies—would require social media platforms to immediately remove any user “who promotes, sells, or advertises an illicit substance.”

The bill’s definition of illicit substance includes not only illegal drugs but also many that are legal and regulated in Colorado. It pertains to any controlled substance under state law, including schedules I through V under state law.  That means the bill would affect state-legal marijuana, certain psychedelics—which voters legalized through a 2022 ballot measure—and even some over-the-counter cough syrups that contain small amounts of codeine.

Beyond scheduled drugs, the bill specifies that its restrictions also apply to certain hemp products with more than 1.25 milligrams THC or a CBD-to-THC ratio of less than 20 to 1 and most other hemp-containing products intended for human consumption.

If enacted onto law, companies would also need to publish “a statement that the use of the social media platform for the promotion, sale, or advertisement of any illicit substance…is prohibited.”

The R Street Institute says the restriction would impact not only cannabis companies but also any individual who posts positively about marijuana.

“Basically, the Colorado Legislature is trying to force social media companies to ban the promotion of marijuana,” the group’s social media director, Shoshanna Weissman, wrote in a new article. “And because what constitutes ‘promotion’ remains undefined, the bill would likely force platforms to remove all pro-marijuana free speech in a state where recreational use is legal.”

Not only is the ambiguity of “promotion” an issue, but the bill’s broad definition of illicit substances could also cause confusion, R Street says.

The think tank points out that the bill’s definition of illicit substances “would make it unlawful for businesses to promote them for sale or even for regular people to talk about their benefits online.”

“This clearly violates the First Amendment, as the bill is unconstitutionally narrow in scope,” Weissman wrote. “Basically, if speaking highly of or advertising these substances were truly dangerous, the state would have banned advertising in all its forms (e.g., print, television, digital).”

Instead, as the R Street article notes, the state itself seems to have embraced legalization and cannabis culture. For multiple years, it points out, Colorado has auctioned off marijuana-themed license plates that read things like “420,” “HASH,” and “GOTWAX.”

“For over a decade, Colorado has been a leader in the cannabis space, bringing bold, innovative and creative businesses to the state,” Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in 2022, when the state auctioned off plates reading “BLUNT,” “DABBING,” “TERPENE,” “TOKER,” “VISINE” and “NORML.”

“This effort allows us to celebrate Colorado’s mile-high reputation and fund critical projects and programs in our disability community,” the governor said at the time.

SB24-158 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee on Tuesday. Its prime sponsors are Sens. Chris Hansen and Dafna Michaelson Jenet as well as Rep. Meghan Lukens, all of whom are Democrats.

Social media companies would be required to update policies and post them publicly on or before July 1, 2025. Updates to social media policies would also need to be posted online within 14 days of implementation.

Companies would also be mandated to submit reports annually to the state attorney general a statement “of whether the current version of the published policies contain definitions and provisions relating to illicit substances,” according to a legislative summary of the bill.

Meanwhile in Colorado, organizers at a Second Amendment advocacy group are poised to begin gathering signatures on a ballot measure that would allow cannabis consumers to obtain concealed carry firearm licenses under state law.

Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis through a ballot initiative in 2012, though cannabis remains prohibited at the federal level. And under federal law, being an “unlawful user” of a controlled substance, including marijuana, means a person cannot legally buy or possess a gun.

Earlier this year, Colorado marijuana regulators also touted industry successes from the past year and promoted their new hospitality rules for the industry, including increased sales limits for cannabis hospitality businesses that allow on-site use.

One of the things they touted is a rule about online sales that took effect last August. Customers must still physically pick up the marijuana products from retailers, but now they can browse and electronically purchase cannabis online ahead of visiting the store.

Polis has praised the state’s reputation on marijuana and even said in January that Colorado is “leading the nation” on psychedelics, just as it did with cannabis.

“Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational use of cannabis, setting a standard for innovation and safety and economic mobility that’s been replicated by states across the nation and countries across the world, who come here to learn what Colorado did right,” Polis said in his latest State of the State address. “Now, thanks to our voters, we’re once again leading the nation on natural medicine, unfreezing 50-plus years of stifled research to learn about the potential benefits for the people of our state and beyond.”

It’s not clear whether such comments would be allowed on social media if SB24-158 passes the legislature and is signed into law as currently drafted.

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