California Marijuana Businesses Banned from Some Billboard Advertising

Empty billboard feature photo

California Marijuana Businesses Banned from Some Billboard Advertising

Feb 11 2021, by Jessica McElfresh in Marijuana Business, Marijuana Business

Billboard advertisements are everywhere along California’s highways, but if you see any for cannabis businesses, their days might be numbered. In November, a judge ruled billboards for the cannabis industry along highways that cross state borders are illegal.

McElfresh Law helps California’s cannabis industry succeed while navigating the legal and regulatory maze that lies ahead of them. We can protect your business with guidance, support, and advocacy to secure licensure and governmental compliance. Call (858) 756-7107 for a cannabis business consultation.

Why Some Billboards Have To Come Down

The state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control has until mid-February to inform California’s cannabis companies of new limitations on billboard advertising. San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Ginger Garrett ordered that action in January. Last November, she ruled that billboards advertising cannabis sales or products were illegal under Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot measure approving recreational marijuana in the state, reports the Marijuana Business Daily.

Proposition 64 states in part that businesses are prohibited from “advertis[ing] or market[ing] on a billboard or similar advertising device located on an Interstate Highway or on a State Highway which crosses the California border.”

Judge Garrett struck down an industry-friendly 2019 regulation that allowed billboards on highways at least 15 miles from a state border. The BCC took a narrow interpretation of Proposition 64, stating the ban applied to highway stretches that crossed a border. The judge interpreted it broadly.

Her billboard ban wasn’t being enforced, so Judge Garrett issued the order, which forces the agency to spread the word to California cannabis companies. The BCC has until the end of February to report back to her.

A San Luis Obispo resident Matthew Farmer initially filed legal action to take the billboards down. He argued, and the judge agreed, that they violated Proposition 64. Farmer said that children saw the billboards, which made marijuana use more appealing to them, according to KSBY.

Where California Highways Start & End

Under Judge Garrett’s order, the billboards across 4,315 miles of interstate and state highways crossing California’s borders are not allowed. This includes approximately 35 highways – Highway 101, I-80, and I-10 are all affected.

The ruling only impacts billboards on highways that intersect borders. Given Judge Garrett’s decision, a state highway that runs close to a state border but doesn’t cross could have these billboards. But the I-5 – which is nearly 800 miles long and runs from Mexico to Oregon – can’t have any.

Other Ways To Advertise Your Cannabis Business

In addition to the ban on billboards, Proposition 64 created other advertising limits as well:

  • Ads must accurately identify the business advertised
  • Ads can’t target those younger than 21-years-old
  • Promotional materials cannot use content associated with those under 21-years-old
  • No billboard or signs can be within 1,000 feet of a youth center, daycare, or school
  • Businesses can’t give away cannabis or cannabis accessories as promotions
  • There can be no TV or radio ads in a time slot where less than 71.6% of the audience are older than 21-years-old
  • Advertising must be accurate and substantiated
  • Direct marketing campaigns or materials must confirm the age of their target audience before starting to communicate with them

Failure to comply with advertising regulation could result in fines and the loss of the business’ license. If you have a question about a marketing or advertising effort because you’re not sure if it’s legal or not, give us a call.

Contact McElfresh Law Today

With wide-ranging experience in cannabis permitting, regulation, and licensing, McElfresh Law can provide your business the comprehensive and personal legal support you need for long-term success and prosperity.

Call (858) 756-7107 today, or contact us online to schedule an appointment. There are other ways to comply with regulations and promote your cannabis business, and we can help.