Cannabis Sponsors Half of Colorado’s Adopt-a-Highway Signs

colorado cannabis highway signs
(Creative-Family/iStock)

Next time you’re headed down a highway in Colorado, take a look at who’s helping keep that stretch of roadway clean. There’s a solid chance it’s the local cannabis industry.

Of Colorado’s roughly 160 Adopt-a-Highway signs, the state Department of Transportation says half—about 80—are now sponsored by cannabis companies. “It’s actually helping us out quite a bit with all the trash debris we’ve have around the metro area,” department spokesperson Al Martinez told Colorado-based Rooster Magazine.

Why the overwhelming display of environmental stewardship? Rooster reporter Reilly Capps, who first reported the news, chalks it up to “those two characteristics of the cannabis vendor: altruism and craftiness.”

First, altruism. Weed dealers — at least the good ones — were always notorious for letting you pull off their bongs when you came over for brick weed in the ’90s. Not much has changed since then.

Because in the same way, cannabis companies — the new, legal version of the old seller — tend to be run by good people, too.

“It is part of LivWell Enlightened Health’s culture to give back to the communities in which we operate,” the company’s marketing director, Chris Mapson, says via email. LivWell sponsors several stretches of highway.

The second quality of the cannabis vendor, craftiness, is a product of the convoluted rules and regulations around cannabis—and specifically, how it’s advertised. Cannabis companies, unlike most other businesses, are prohibited from advertising through various mainstream channels, so they’re constantly searching for other ways to get their names out to consumers.

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Colorado cannabis companies don’t, for example, have access to certain kinds of outdoor advertisements. Nor are most digital advertising avenues open to them—Facebook deletes cannabis-related ads, most TV and radio platforms are off-limits, and YouTube has been taking down entire cannabis-related channels.

Sponsoring an Adopt-a-Highway sign, then, offers companies an above-board way to put their names and logos in front of Coloradans—and build an eco-conscious reputation while they’re at it.

More broadly, civic-minded efforts—whether cleaning up roadsides, providing free cannabis to military veterans and indigent patients, or helping students pay for college—are methods of pushing back against the longtime stigma of cannabis as a social ill. They help recast the cannabis industry as a legitimate participant in the community rather than a danger to it.

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“Cannabis marketers have to be extra creative and strategic in all of their marketing efforts,” Olivia Mannix, founder of marketing company CannaBrands, told Rooster. Adopt-a-Highway signs, she said, are “just another way for the cannabis industry to show their support for the environment and the well-being of the state—as well as getting their brands in front of people.”

What does “adopting” a highway actually entail? According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, “the adopting group agrees to pick up litter from both sides of a highway for a two-mile section at a minimum of four times per year.” In return, the department puts up a sign crediting the group, provides bags and other supplies, and picks up the filled trash bags from the roadside. Other related programs, such as Colorado’s Sponsor-a-Highway program, involves paying for professional crews to maintain and beautify the state’s highways. Similar programs are available in states across the country.