Billboards on Interstate Cannabis Highway declared illegal statewide by SLO County Judge


Last weekend, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Ginger Garrett ruled that all billboards advertising marijuana and cannabis products in California are now illegal due to of the wording of proposal 64.

Proposition 64, which California voters passed in 2016, allowed the sale and recreational use of marijuana to people 21 and older. Included in Prop 64 was a ban on highway advertising, offered as a way to make legalization more palatable to undecided voters. However, in 2019, the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) permitted billboard advertising along highways that cross state borders, including federal and state highways, interpreting the language of Prop 64 as prohibiting only billboards within 15 miles of other states.

The change was quickly challenged later in the year when a San Luis Obispo construction worker, Matthew Farmer, saw billboards advertising marijuana and said it exposed his children to cannabis. He got hold of two lawyers and filed a complaint in October 2019.

“He remembered that in the proposal it said there would be no advertising for children,” Stewart Jenkins, one of Farmer’s lawyers, said Monday, “and that he didn’t Specifically, there would be no advertising on interstate highways and major state highways that go to the border, such as 101.

After more than a year in the court system, Judge Garrett has finally ruled in favor of Farmer and that billboards on interstate highways are illegal. In the ruling, the judge made it clear that the BCC overstepped its limits by allowing billboards last year.

“Office [BBC] and its director, Lori Ajax, exceeded her authority by promulgating the regulation on advertising placement, ”explained Justice Garrett in her decision.

The decision affects 35 interstate freeways in California, including major federal highways such as Interstate 5, Interstate 10, and Interstate 80.

However, the ban won’t cover all billboards, as Prop 64 only covered highways connected to other states. This means that highways entirely within the state will continue to allow billboards advertising cannabis.

A Prop 64 fix

“It doesn’t matter if you are pro or anti-pot,” said Mary Harding, a Los Angeles-based cannabis lawyer. “Accessory 64 said, in black and white, that this was not allowed. I wouldn’t call it a victory for those who oppose marijuana or a loss for those who oppose marijuana. It’s just the law that’s being corrected for what voters wanted in 2016. If there’s a winner, it’s voters in California.

“Those against 64 are happy with the reinstatement of the restrictions, and the pro-64s should be happy to put them to the letter because next time an interpretation might limit them.”

On Tuesday, the BCC did not say when the deadline for the removal of the billboards would be or whether the decision would be appealed in the future.

“We are still reviewing the decision, and it remains to be seen what the next steps will be,” BCC spokesman Alex Traverso said on Tuesday.

If an appeal is filed, the case is unlikely to be heard in court until next year.

“COVID is currently threatening to create a traffic jam,” Harding added. “If it appeals, it will take some time. “

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