April 22, 2020


Since the Farm Bill legislation last year (which changed the legal status of hemp, therefore making certain types of CBD products legal), there has been increased discussion about what this means for public media underwriting.

In the past, the FCC has generally warned stations not to advertise or accept underwriting for “illegal” products and underwriting messages are protected by the First Amendment only if related to “lawful activity.”

But now that some CBD non-food products derived from low-THC industrial hemp (.3% or lower) are legal under federal law, it could follow that stations interested in accepting underwriting from companies with CBD products would face significantly lower risk.

That said, stations should still proceed with caution.

Here are some tips to consider as your station weighs the risk associated with this opportunity:

  1. Consider your market, your audience, your donors, and their potential reaction to hearing such a spot.
  2. Be sure the products the business sells are derived from hemp and not marijuana (<.3%THC).
  3. Be sure the underwriter’s products are produced under an approved hemp production plan (state or federal).
  4. Be sure the underwriter’s product complies with FDA requirements, i.e. there is no FDA approval for ingestibles or for medical use (other than epilepsy treatment).
  5. Be sure the business is licensed.
  6. Ask for a letter signed by the business that says (1) their product is legal, (2) they are licensed, (3) they are not promoting ingestibles, and (4) your station should be held harmless.
  7. When it comes to copy, don’t necessarily mention specific products per se, only that the business sells CBD products.
  8. In general, if you’re approached about underwriting for a CBD product or have other marijuana-related questions, it would be wise to check with an attorney.

Thanks to Lesli Blount, VPR for contributions to this blog post, as well as takeaways from this article and related webinar.