On Friday, October 8, Governor Gavin Newsom axed Assembly Bill 1302, which would’ve permitted marijuana billboard advertisement on most California highways and interstates. Newsom issued a veto message explaining his reasoning where he noted that the state’s recreational-use marijuana bill had built-in protections to prevent youth exposure to marijuana-related advertising. He didn’t want to change that.
Newsom’s letter reads, “When the voters passed Proposition 64, they enacted robust protections shielding youth from exposure to cannabis and cannabis advertising.” The letter continues, “Among other things, voters completely prohibited billboard-based cannabis advertising on all Interstate Highways, and on all State Highways that cross the California Border.” He concludes, “Allowing advertising on these high-traffic thoroughfares could expose young passengers to cannabis advertising.” Governor Newsom clarified that permitting advertisements visible to drivers and underage passengers would not line up with the original intentions behind Proposition 64.
He said, “AB 1302 would weaken the protections passed in Proposition 64. California can refine and advance its regulation of cannabis while also remaining faithful to the will of the voters, and I will continue to work with the author to strike this balance. For these reasons, I am returning AB 1302 without my signature.” Assemblyman Bill Quirk, a representative of Union City, said the legislation was needed to assist the state’s legal marijuana industry burdened by crippling taxes and bans on marijuana shops in many California cities. Quirk said via the Hastings Tribune, “We have not done enough to help the legal cannabis industry thrive.”
He continued, “The legal cannabis industry has a very limited and narrow set of marketing avenues available to them. Removing their ability to promote their legitimate business along hundreds of miles of [the] roadway does nothing but help the illicit market.” The struggle over cannabis-related billboards has been in a state of flux since the start of the year –concerning how close advertisement can be to state highways or interstates. While it’s unfortunate that this new law couldn’t get passed, this allows for the bill to be reconstructed so that there are better provisions that help push marijuana reform further. As we saw earlier this year when Newsom signed a bill creating the new CA Department of Cannabis Control, the Golden State is clearly still tweaking and refining their cannabis laws on a regular basis.