Cannabis-related billboards have been called a nuisance, leading authorities in California to ban them on highways throughout the state and enforce existing policies.
On January 21, the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) ordered billboard companies to stop selling space for cannabis businesses and take down existing ads on roads that cross state borders. Up until now, cannabis-related ads on billboards were only banned within a 15-mile radius of the California border.
The ruling impacts about three dozen state and interstate highways, including U.S. 101 that runs through Los Angeles, California and is known for heavy traffic. It also impacts Interstate 10 and 215 in Riverside County and 55 in Orange County—all of which are dotted with cannabis billboards.
“This makes it much harder for legal cannabis businesses to attract new customers, including customers that were shopping on the illicit market,” Executive Director of the California Cannabis Industry Association Lindsay Robinson told the Associated Press.
On November 20, 2020, Judge Ginger Garett of San Luis Obispo County Superior Court ruled that the BCC had overstepped its authority and was “promoting interests which are inconsistent with the protections of the public.” Then on January 11, Judge Garett ordered the state to inform all licensed cannabis businesses that billboards would no longer be allowed alongside roadways that cross state lines. While advocates hoped the BCC would appeal the ruling, the bureau decided to comply and announce the ban instead.
The ruling is likely to stand, considering that Proposition 64 included a provision in the fine print that said businesses cannot “advertise or market on a billboard or similar advertising device located on an Interstate Highway or State Highway which crosses the border of any other state.”
The BCC leadership agrees. “We’re starting the notification process and answering questions from licensees that have billboards up now to try and best understand their situation,” BCC spokesperson Alex Traverso told the Orange County Register.
According to the Orange County Register, the BCC hasn’t come out with a deadline to remove billboard ads. In addition, no specific penalties have been announced.
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