A new policy update in New York has banned all advertising of cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms on public transport. Since the recent legalization of marijuana in New York, a preliminary prohibition on such ads (which included nicotine and alcohol-related ads) was written into the legalization bill. This ban is not unusual, as several states have implemented similar ones as they have legalized cannabis. Since marijuana is not federally legal, each decision about cannabis (and psychedelics, for that matter), whether it’s taking a trip or taking a hit from glass pipes, are made state-to-state. So why do states decide to create policies that prohibit these kinds of ads?
Each state has its own rules regarding public advertisement about cannabis and psychedelics (also referred to as entheogens or psilocybin mushrooms ). Oregon is the only state that has eliminated criminal penalties for using psychedelics, but several states have begun reducing penalties or ending funding towards targeting psychedelic users. In addition, several cities are following suit even if their states are not; Ann Arbor, MI, is the only city not to criminalize any part of “natural psychedelics” (this includes possession and transportation.) This leads to questions about why states (like New York) are placing bans on psychedelics when they are not decriminalized yet. The most straightforward answer may be that banning advertisements is in anticipation for decriminalization and even legalization in the far future. Entheogens have been touted as potentially therapeutic, so several states may be banning advertisements if cities and the entire state eventually will have some form of legal acceptance. States that have not decriminalized cannabis also follow suit with this strategy regarding marijuana. This makes any legalization of either substance a more straightforward bill and an easier rollout when put into effect. Simply put, banning advertisements makes lawmakers’ jobs more manageable in the potential event cannabis, or psychedelics are made legal.
These bans mostly boil down to preventing children and young adults below the legal age from being influenced by ads that depict marijuana and entheogens. According to a study called “Planting the Seeds of Marijuana Use,” adolescents are more likely to use cannabis or view it in a positive light the more medical marijuana advertisements they see. The United Nations also urged member countries to ban cannabis advertising as young peoples’ perceptions of health effects have substantially decreased. There is no doubt marijuana can help many ailments in adults, from seizures to depression and everything in between. However, a great deal of research shows that continuous cannabis usage can negatively affect brain development for adolescents and younger. There is minimal research on how psychedelics affect young people, and this lack of data also leads states to be highly wary of the effects on children. Multiple states have banned ads because of the higher susceptibility young people have towards being swayed by advertising.
Many states have opened up to the idea that cannabis and psychedelics could be therapeutically for adults. With the attitudes of many U.S. citizens becoming more accepting towards marijuana, it is not out of the realm to believe that psilocybin mushrooms could follow.
The ban in New York seems to reflect that while tolerance and laws are changing, states recognize that advertising (even for medical cannabis and entheogens) encourages people to buy products, even if this means young adults under the legal age. While society moves towards a new era in natural drug acceptance, states will continue to take precautionary measures to prevent young people from being influenced by advertisements. Whether these steps make an impact; will be seen as laws continue to change.