California Judge Rules Against Cannabis Billboards

In a decision that is sure to turn heads, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Ginger E. Garrett ruled that cannabis billboards along California interstate roads are prohibited. The ruling centers around language contained within the 2016 initiative that legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use. According to the court, the voter-approved measure that allows the sale of recreational marijuana explicitly disallows cannabis advertising that could be viewed by children. The court ruled that by allowing advertising along California interstate roads, California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) overstepped its power last year when it adopted a regulation allowing billboards to advertise cannabis along the freeways.

Lawsuit Filed By Father Of Teenagers

The case eventually made its way to the California Superior Court after being filed by Matthew Farmer. He was specifically concerned with advertising that could be seen by children. Further, Farmer recalled that the proposition indicated that cannabis would not be advertised to children or along the interstate highways. The court agreed with Farmer, ruling that the voter approved initiative could not be amended by regulation and that advertising along interstate highways is not permitted.

Court Takes Hardline Stance

Proposition 64, the statute that controls the regulation of the legal cannabis industry within California, contains language directly dealing with how and where cannabis companies can advertise.

Section 26152(d) states: A licensee may not advertise or market on a billboard or similar advertising device located on an interstate highway or on a state highway which crosses the California border. In looking at that section, the court took a strict interpretation in barring all advertisements on interstate highways. The BCC interpreted the spirit of that section to only disallow advertisement that would likely be seen by out of state travelers at or near the border of California. Because of this, the Bureau instituted a rule that prohibited cannabis advertisements on all freeways within a 15 mile radius of all California borders. The Bureau believed this regulation satisfied the intent of the section.

Interestingly, Section 26152(e) deals with advertising to minors. That section states, “a licensee shall not advertise or market cannabis or cannabis products in a manner intended to encourage persons under 21 years of age to consume cannabis or cannabis-based products.”

Both of the above-mentioned laws fall under the umbrella of advertising prohibitions, but they do not appear to have a direct or indirect connection to each other. With this recent ruling, it is unclear how other sections which allow for cannabis advertisements on city streets will be affected.

Cannabis Industry Seeks Clarity

The current ruling casts uncertainty over what is permitted under Proposition 64. Industry advocates are expected to appeal the ruling and seek clarity as to what is allowed under the statute.

Aaron Pelley

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