Is Your Cannabis Retail Sign a Local Violation?

Jars of cannabis

Is Your Cannabis Retail Sign a Local Violation?

Jun 12 2021, by Jessica McElfresh in Marijuana Business, Marijuana Business

Cannabis retail businesses face many challenges, just like any retail establishment, and they must comply with state and local regulations. One of them is signage. There are statewide restrictions on cannabis retail signs, and San Diego’s municipal code has rules covering all types of signs.

A cannabis retail business owner may be surprised at the amount of attention state, and local governments give to signs. To prevent a problem for your business, your signs should comply with local codes and state law.

San Diego Sign Regulations

Every California city and town has a municipal code. Signage rules can vary widely, depending on your location. San Diego’s municipal code has restrictions on cannabis-related billboards but no specific rules covering cannabis business signs.

Sixty-seven pages of the San Diego municipal code are filled with sign regulations. They cover:

  • Signs visible from public right of ways and those only seen from inside buildings
  • Clocks, banners, pennants, bulletin boards, balloons, posters, and flags
  • Window, wall, ground, and roof signs
  • Primary, secondary, temporary, and incidental signs
  • Signs that inflate, revolve, project, and have changing messages

How a Sign Could Violate Code

Virtually any kind of sign could violate the municipal code because of:

  • Size
  • Location
  • What’s holding it up
  • How it’s attached to something
  • How it operates

It all depends on the facts of your situation, including whether you’re in an area of San Diego that has additional sign rules that don’t apply to the rest of the city. Common violations include the improper use of temporary signs – such as ones on sidewalks – banners, and signs posted on utility poles.


Violations of any of these rules are strict liability offenses. It doesn’t matter if you know you are violating the code. The issue would be whether the code is violated intentionally or not. The city has the authority to inspect your signs and potentially remove them. There’s a process where you could contest the allegation your sign violates the code.

California Sign Requirements

California’s business and professional code has cannabis business advertising and marketing restrictions. Under this state law, advertisements include signs and outdoor displays. An advertising sign is defined as a stationary or affixed advertisement promoting the sale of cannabis or cannabis products not cultivated, manufactured, distributed, or sold on the same lot.

All advertisements must:

  • Identify the licensee responsible for its content by including at least its license number
  • Be truthful and appropriately substantiated

Licensees are prohibited from advertising:

  • In a way that creates or tends to create a misleading impression
  • Any statement concerning a brand or product that’s inconsistent with its labeling
  • Cannabis products in a way that encourages those younger than 21 to consume cannabis or cannabis products
  • In a way that’s attractive to children
  • Cannabis or cannabis products on a sign within 1,000 feet of a daycare center, a school with a kindergarten or any grades one to 12, a playground, or youth center
  • While the licensee’s license is suspended

Disciplinary Actions

Grounds for disciplinary action by the Bureau of Cannabis Control include the failure to comply with state law’s advertising and marketing provisions. If you do, your license may be suspended, revoked, or placed on probation with terms and conditions.

You could also face some other kinds of discipline, including a fine after you get proper notice and a hearing. A licensing authority could also recover from you the costs of an investigation and enforcement of a disciplinary proceeding.

Contact McElfresh Law Today

The best approach to signage issues is to make sure they comply with local and state requirements before you put them up. If you notice there’s a problem, depending on the cost, it may be cheaper and faster to make changes to the sign than contest the issue.

McElfresh Law can help your cannabis business with 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 so we can discuss your situation, how state and local law may apply, and how we can help.