By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Denver International Airport has banned the sale of merchandise depicting marijuana after entrepreneurs sought to peddle cannabis-themed souvenirs to capitalize on Colorado's legal recreational pot industry, an official said on Wednesday.
The fifth busiest U.S. airport barred the sale of marijuana products and advertising when Colorado voters approved the use of pot by adults in 2012, but expanded its rules to include pot-themed merchandise this month, said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery.
"Marijuana is not keeping with the first-class concession and family-friendly environment we have here," Montgomery said.
The new rule makes it unlawful for vendors to “sell, display, or advertise any product bearing the image, likeness, description, or name” of marijuana or related products.
There is an exception for news media publications and “non-commercial” educational materials.
Colorado is among four states whose voters have chosen to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes.
Montgomery said the airport operates under federal law which deems marijuana illegal for any purpose, although President Barack Obama's administration has given individual states leeway to frame their own rules.
Ann Jordan, the owner of High-ly Legal Colorado, which sells socks, flip-flops and underwear that depict marijuana leaves, said she had approached airport officials last year about selling her line of merchandise.
Jordan, 67, a retired public school teacher and grandmother, said she sells her wares at music stores, a car wash and other retail outlets, but wanted to reach tourists who come through the bustling airport.
“There are people who walk through the airport who are probably opposed to alcohol but that does not stop them (airport officials) from allowing alcohol sales or ads for craft beers,” she said, adding that several airport kiosk operators were willing to sell her products.
Jordan said she had consulted with an attorney, but stopped short of saying whether she would file a lawsuit to challenge the ban.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)