NEW ORLEANS — You may have noticed these billboards around town, selling you on the benefits of marijuana, from jobs and tax revenue to higher property value.
It had us wondering: Who's behind them? And why are they popping up suddenly?
"$1 billion in tax revenue;" "Cannabis has been shown to reduce opioid deaths;" "Youth marijuana usage rates declined following the adoption of medical marijuana laws" -- these are some of the messages on the new boards.
Just a few of these signs, of nearly the 1,000 that have gone up around the country, are here in Louisiana. There are at least 31 here, with seven of them in the New Orleans area.
WeedMaps is a Southern California based company. They paid for these billboards. The company operates an app that helps marijuana users finds dispensaries, delivery, and deals.
"We want people to be informed, we want them to have the right information," said Carl Fillichio, WeedMaps Vice President.
This comes as Louisiana prepares to see its first medicinal marijuana dispensary open. WeedMaps, however, is pushing the issue further with claims about recreational marijuana.
"Weed facts billboards use independent research from academic institutions, and federal and state government reports," Fillichio said.
Some in the medical community say there's another side to this advertising.
"I think they're cherry-picking," Dr. Ken Roy, an addiction expert, said.
Roy is the Chief Medical Officer with Avenues Recovery in Metairie and said he has seen a lot of cases in which people are addicted to using marijuana.
"They're not looking at the overall consequences, they obviously have a vested interest in making those kinds of statements," Roy said.
Roy said advocates both for and against marijuana make questionable claims, but to his point, Eyewitness News looked further at one WeedMaps billboard that points to a reduction in daily opioid doses where medical cannabis was legal.
The article showing that data is in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That article also said, "The association between medical cannabis laws and opioid prescriptions is not well understood."
"The point of the billboards is to engage people in an informed debate," Fillichio said.
But for now, Fillichio says, let people do their own research, and let the discussion continue.