Judge bans cannabis billboards across California interstates

Judge bans cannabis billboards across California interstates

By Megan Healy

You won't be seeing any more billboards advertising cannabis products along California interstates.

On Friday, Nov. 20, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge ruled they are illegal under Prop. 64.

A San Luis Obispo father, Matthew Farmer, saw cannabis billboards while driving along Highway 101 and says this kind of advertising is wrongfully exposing his two children to cannabis use.

In October 2019, two San Luis Obispo attorneys, Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins, filed a public interest lawsuit in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on behalf of Farmer.

In the lawsuit, they argue that these billboards are illegal under Prop. 64, which legalized marijuana and was passed by California voters in 2016.

“This is the reason you ban it on billboards,” Rizzo said. “When mom's driving on I-5 taking the kids to Disneyland and then you see this big appealing ad, how do you unsee it?"

The 2016 voter-approved ban, similar to the ban on billboards advertising tobacco, was enacted as part of Proposition 64 to protect children from cannabis advertising and disallowed these billboards on the approximately 4,315 miles of the Interstate Highways and State Highways, which cross the California border.

“That's what the people of California said is that major highways that cross the border will not have the billboard advertising on it to protect children and the public from this kind of advertising,” Jenkins said. “It’s not anti-cannabis. It's making sure that children aren't induced to try these drugs early and have them impact them permanently for the rest of their lives."

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Ginger Garrett ruled against the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) striking down a 2019 regulation it adopted to allow for cannabis billboards on highways that cross the state borders.

“Tobacco is legal, but advertising towards children is not. Cannabis is legal but advertising towards children is not,” Rizzo said. “These are the same types of tactics that were used to hook kids years and years ago and the people stood up and said, 'No, we don't want it happening anymore. I think we need to take that same mindset and approach it towards cannabis'."

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