Gov. Gavin Newsom Says No To Cannabis Billboards Along California's Busy Highways And Byways

It seems that cannabis billboards will not be seen by the millions who drive on California's many highways and byways after all. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have allowed cannabis billboards along interstate freeways and state highways that cross state borders, except within a 15-miles radius of another state.

While state regulators adopted rules meant to clarify advertising restrictions along highways in 2019, since January those regulations have conflicted with state law, according to a judge’s order. Moreover, the judge ruled that officials did not have sufficient authority to allow the billboards.

The bill, AB 1302, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, addressed the issue while also barring cannabis billboard ads within a 15-mile radius of the state border.

Newsom disclosed in a veto message that the measure would “weaken” protections included in the cannabis legalization ballot measure which was approved in 2016.

“When the voters passed Proposition 64, they enacted robust protections shielding youth from exposure to cannabis and cannabis advertising,” Newsom wrote. “Among other things, voters completely prohibited billboard-based cannabis advertising on all Interstate Highways and on all State Highways that cross the California border. Allowing advertising on these high-traffic thoroughfares could expose young passengers to cannabis advertising.”

The move comes on the heels of Newsom’s approval of legislation that expands the hemp industry in California by legalizing retail sales of hemp-derived consumable products, as well as a bill that requires hospitals and other health care facilities to allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana.

Cannabis Billboards Nationwide

In other states that have legalized the plant, such as Michigan, cannabis billboards have their place on the roads, despite a group of state lawmakers who are trying to pull them down.

In the Wolverine State, the billboards are regulated and have all been approved by the Marijuana Regulatory Agency. Still, the display of photos of marijuana products is not permitted.

In Arizona, the bill banning cannabis-related ads on billboards within 1,000 feet of schools, child-care centers, public parks and churches was denied in a 30 to 18 vote. The lawmakers explained that they were worried about passing a bill that would give an advertising advantage to the alcohol industry.

In the meantime, Sacha Baron Cohen, an English actor, comedian, writer and producer, best known as Borat Sagdiyev and Brüno Gehard, recently sued Massachusetts -based cannabis dispensary Solar Therapeutics for using his Borat image on a billboard without permission.

Cohen accused Solar of copyright infringement, false advertising, and the misappropriation of his right of publicity over the billboard and is looking to sough $9 million in damages.

Photo: Courtesy of Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

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