Marijuana dispensary owner sues Mississippi over advertising ban, claiming First Amendment violation

  • Clarence Cocroft II, the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in Olive Branch, Mississippi, is suing the state over a law that bars him from advertising his business in any capacity.
  • Cockroft’s attorneys argued that the law violated the businessman’s First Amendment rights.
  • “Like any other business owner, all I want to do is have the opportunity to advertise. If I pay taxes in this industry, which I do, I should be able to advertise,” Cockcroft said at a news conference, pleading with the state to give Businesses like his offer “the same freedom” to other businesses.

The owner of a Mississippi medical marijuana dispensary filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging state regulations that he says censor business owners by preventing them from advertising.

Clarence Cocroft II speaks out after Mississippi legalizes medical marijuana in 2022 for people with debilitating medical conditions Olive Branch (Mississippi)But he said he has struggled to reach customers because the Mississippi Department of Health prohibits medical marijuana businesses from advertising in any media.

Cockroft complained in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi that this violated the business owner’s First Amendment rights.

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“Like any other business owner, all I want to do is have the opportunity to advertise. If I pay taxes in this industry, which I do, I should be able to advertise,” Cockcroft said at a news conference. We ask this state to provide us with the same freedoms they provide to other businesses. “

Cockroft, represented by the Institute for Justice, is suing leaders of the state Department of Health, Department of Revenue and Alcoholic Beverage Control in a lawsuit that accuses state rules of prohibiting business owners from engaging in truthful business speech to promote their legitimate businesses. first amendment.

“Under the injunction, Clarence cannot advertise in any media. He cannot place ads in newspapers or magazines, on television or radio, or even on billboards he already owns,” Cockcroft’s lawsuit said Said one Katrin Marks. The amendment does not allow the state to fully censor legitimate businesses. If it is legal to sell a product, it is legal to talk about it. “

Cannabis dispensary owner Clarence Cocroft II, who is being sued in a free speech lawsuit over advertising regulations, was photographed in front of his business in Olive Branch, Mississippi. (Institute of Justice, Associated Press)

A spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Health did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday. A spokesman for the Department of Revenue said the agency had not heard of the lawsuit.

Arkansas, Louisiana and alabama There are also regulations prohibiting pharmacies from advertising through public media. But Cockcroft Mercy said Mississippi has stricter rules than neighboring states.

Mississippi law allows patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams of marijuana per day, up to six days per week.

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The state health department cannot prevent dispensaries from placing “appropriate signage” on their property or displaying the products they sell on their websites. All other advertising restrictions are determined by the health department, which prohibits dispensaries from advertising or marketing “in any media.”

“State governments cannot simultaneously authorize the lawful sale of a product or service while prohibiting truthful advertising of said products,” Marks said. “Neither state nor federal law justifies censorship in this case.”

When Cocroft started Tru Source, he budgeted for advertising and purchased billboards in high-traffic areas of northern Mississippi, Cocroft said. He has been leasing the billboards to other businesses and relying on word-of-mouth referrals to attract potential customers.

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“It’s just not fair that every other legal business in Mississippi can advertise and I have to rely on word of mouth,” Cockroft said.

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