Marijuana on display at Colorado shop High Country Healing. (Kathryn Scott Osler, Denver Post file)

Denver’s KMGH-7 hits pause on first-ever pot TV ads

Denver’s ABC affiliate KMGH-Channel 7 is on the verge of running what is said to be the first marijuana-related TV commercials. But after confirming the controversial move in The Cannabist, the station on Friday put the ads on hold. (UPDATE JULY 20, 6:55 P.M.: The ads won’t air anytime soon.)

For now, the issue is in the hands of owner E.W. Scripps’ lawyers.

KMGH-Channel 7 is weighing one 15-second spot for The Green Solution, a company with several dispensaries in the state, and another for Neos, a company that sells cannabis-oil-loaded vape pens.

The first spot shows real people, not actors, in familiar Denver locations holding signs reading, “I’m a construction worker,” “I’m a purchasing manager” … “I shop at The Green Solution.”

The second pitch says, “Neos. Recreate responsibly,” over images of Larimer Square, a concert, healthy young people dancing and hiking. A printed graphic cautions “must be 21 or older to consume. Colorado only.”

The spots don’t show or mention cannabis and would air after the late news, leading in to “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

But how will Channel 7 justify using the federally licensed airwaves to carry ads for a substance still illegal at the national level?

“In the old days, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke slept in separate beds, now we have Viagra ads. Things evolve,” KMGH vice president and general manager Brad Remington said.

Remington cited strict guidelines on the content and timing of the ads. “Ads for recreational use, for example, cannot air until after 10 p.m. and cannot show people using the product.” The ads would air when the vast majority of the audience is over 21, he said, citing Nielsen data.

“I don’t mind being first,” he said. “We’re being really smart about it.”

So far, no other Denver TV station has agreed to carry cannabis-related advertising.

Mark Cornetta, head of KUSA-Channel 9, said the station has no such plans. “That’s not to say if the federal government decides to legalize marijuana… we’ve talked about it a number of times. We’re licensed by the federal government…. What sort of conflicts might that hold? We’re using the public airwaves, it’s a federally banned substance.

“We’ve all been approached,” Cornetta said. “It’s a dilemma.”

Joanne Ostrow: 303-954-1830, or

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