HAVERHILL — School pediatrician Dr. John Maddox and a member of the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance are expected to address the City Council to discuss ways of regulating the advertising of retail marijuana shops in the city.

City Councilor Colin LePage said he asked them to discuss ways that Haverhill can restrict youth access and exposure to pro-marijuana and social normalizing from billboard and outdoor advertising, while adhering to state regulations.

LePage said there is a concern that in other communities, such as Somerville, billboard advertising for retail marijuana shops may be skirting regulations set forth by the state's Cannabis Control Commission.

"We want to ensure any and all advertising that may take place in Haverhill adheres to CCC regulations," LePage said. "I can't control what happens in Somerville, but I'm hoping we can do something in Haverhill to protect kids from being influenced by this kind of advertising."

Maddox, a pediatrician and the Haverhill school physician, has been very outspoken about substance abuse among youth and is a vocal opponent of retail marijuana. 

LePage said his desire to help kids avoid substance abuse stems from his lengthy involvement in youth sports in the city, and the tragic death of his son Christopher, who in 2015 died of an apparent overdose.

"Since that time I've been talking to middle school kids about the dangers of substance abuse," LePage said. "Whether it's drugs or alcohol, I'm just trying to prevent enticing young people into making potentially detrimental choices."

At the July 23 council meeting, LePage briefly discussed reducing the exposure to persons under 21 to outdoor advertising, including billboards, related to retail marijuana sales and establishments.

The council approved sending his concerns to the administration and finance committee LePage chairs.

"I subsequently held an administration and finance meeting Aug. 5 to discuss the item," LePage said. "Both Dr. Maddox and City Solicitor William Cox attended the meeting, where we discussed the matter of outdoor advertising."

LePage said Cox requested more information from MAPA, which will be presented during Tuesday's council meeting.

The state's Cannabis Control Commission issued an extensive set of restrictive regulations regarding retail marijuana advertising, LePage said.

He said those regulations "prohibit advertising, marketing and branding by means of television, radio, internet, mobile applications, social media, or other electronic communication, billboard or outdoor advertising, or print publication, unless at least 85% of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older as determined by reliable and current audience composition data."

Additionally, LePage said that according to the CCC regulations, retail marijuana advertising must also include the statement, "Please Consume Responsibly,” in a conspicuous manner, and must also carry a minimum of two recommended warnings, such as "This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming" and "For use only by adults 21 years of age or older. Keep out of the reach of children."

LePage said that during the Aug. 5 meeting, Cox asked Maddox to provide a legal opinion of defense from MAPA counsel about ways Haverhill can restrict advertising while adhering to state regulations.

"We received a legal opinion from MAPA, which will be presented at the council meeting by an attorney from that organization," LePage said.

The Massachusetts Prevention Alliance provides educational resources and advocates for sound drug and alcohol policies to protect the health and well-being of all Massachusetts youth. The organization, based in Lincoln, promote laws and policy that support prevention measures to reduce substance abuse and addiction. 

Visit online at www.mapreventionalliance.org.

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