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New York Subways Ban Ads for Cannabis or Mushrooms

New York’s transit vehicles are prohibited from advertising cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms.

On November 17, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York (MTA), updated its advertising policies. It noted that public transit service may not promote cannabis or other psychedelic substances. “The revised policy includes certain provisions that were part of past policies (with some amendments), and adds new restrictions based on changed circumstances. For example, the revised Advertising Policy explicitly bars advertising for cannabis products, following the decriminalization of recreational use of such products in New York State,” the MTA wrote on its website.

The revised advertising policy notes that the ban applies to anything that: “Promotes tobacco, nicotine, or any tobacco-related or nicotine-related product; any alcohol product; cannabis or any cannabis-related product; or hallucinogenic mushrooms or hallucinogenic mushroom-related product.”

The list of banned advertising also applies to a variety of other types of content, including the promotion or opposition of a political party, anything relative to religious policies, anything “false, misleading or deceptive,” anything that “encourages or depicts unsafe behavior,” which includes promotions of escort services, strip clubs or other sexual services, anything with the use of profanity, among many other prohibited advertisement types.

The legal settlement made with Dame sexual wellness brand resulted in the policy’s change. A complaint was filed by Dame in 2019 when the MTA rejected the company’s advertising efforts, even though the MTA had previously approved dating apps with suggestive imagery, the Museum of Sex and men’s sexual health products. Dame argued that banning the company’s sexual health ads was unconstitutional. “Sexual pleasure is a critical part of wellbeing. Denying Dame advertising space stifles our ability to articulate the value we bring; to innovate and develop products for female sexual pleasure; and enforces sexual shame as a societal norm,” said Dame CEO Alexandra Fine.

She continued, “The MTA was disproportionately applying their anti sexually-oriented business clause to women’s pleasure advertisements, which is unconstitutional. They permitted erectile disorder advertisements to run and denied us. It made them socially and economically a gatekeeper over who can enjoy pleasure. We’ve had to fight for our right to advertise and we believe this is a step forward in closing the pleasure gap.”

There are many questions regarding the future now that marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms have been banned from public advertising on New York Transit Services. It is uncertain if the MTA will evolve or change its policies when New York’s recreational cannabis legalization officially launches (it’s currently projected to begin in 2022, but is subject to change).

The state’s recreational cannabis bill, also referred to as the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, gives the Cannabis Control Board the power to dictate rules on cannabis advertisement, especially for ads that are promote consumption, appeals to children, and more specifically “…is in public transit vehicles and stations.”

There is increasing support to legalize psychedelic mushrooms across the nation, however, it is only legalized or decriminalized within a handful of cities like Denver, Colorado, Oakland, California and other states like Oregon. Oregon decriminalized Psilocybin mushrooms back in 2020. Psychedelic mushrooms are not currently legal in New York, so there isn’t a legal market to promote the sales of mushrooms.

Others have passed laws prohibiting billboards advertising cannabis. The California Bureau of Cannabis Control declared in February that it would prohibit cannabis billboard advertisements located close to highways or state borders. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently vetoed Assembly Bill 1302, a bill that would have allowed marijuana billboard advertising to return to highways or interstate freeways. Newsom was concerned about the potential for youth exposure. Michigan and other states have passed legislation banning billboard advertising.