Customers wait in line to enter LoDo Wellness on the first day of recreational marijuana sales on Jan. 1. (AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post file)

Lawsuit over Colorado advertising rules suffers setback

A federal judge has initially rejected a plea from High Times and Westword magazines to block state rules that prevent recreational marijuana businesses from advertising in most publications.

But Chief U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said she would let the magazines amend their lawsuit to keep the case alive.

Colorado rules for recreational marijuana businesses prohibit the shops from advertising in publications unless the publication “has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the publication’s readership is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.”

Medical-marijuana businesses do not face such restrictions.

High Times and Westword argued the recreational marijuana rules violate their free speech rights. But, in an order issued Friday, Krieger wrote that the magazines don’t have standing to challenge the laws because they are not the ones actually bound by them.

“Generally,” Krieger wrote in the order, “a party cannot challenge laws or regulations that burden someone else’s rights.”

Krieger concluded the magazines might have standing if the rules had discouraged stores from even considering advertising in the magazines. But High Times and Westword didn’t allege specific instances where marijuana stores had chosen not to advertise because of the state’s rules.

Krieger denied a motion for an injunction against the rules but ruled that the magazines could amend their lawsuit to fix the issue.

Attorney David Lane, who is representing the publications, said the problem Krieger cited is, “basically a small issue.”

“We’re going to be amending the complaint within the next three weeks to get more plaintiffs involved,” he said.

When the lawsuit was filed, a spokeswoman for the Colorado attorney general’s office, which would defend the rules in court, said she couldn’t comment.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, or

This story was first published on