SACRAMENTO — State officials improperly allowed hundreds of billboards advertising cannabis products along California highways even though the billboards were banned under the 2016 initiative that legalized the sale of pot for recreational use, a judge ruled last week.
The state Bureau of Cannabis Control overstepped its power last year when it adopted a regulation allowing billboards to advertise pot along freeways, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Ginger E. Garrett said in a ruling on Friday.
The bureau and its director, Lori Ajax, “exceeded their authority in promulgating the advertisement placement regulation,” Garrett wrote in her decision.
The lawsuit was filed by Matthew Farmer, a San Luis Obispo construction contractor who is father to a 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. One of his two attorneys, Stewart Jenkins, said Farmer voted for Proposition 64 in 2016 because he did not think adults should go to jail for smoking pot, but was concerned when cannabis ads began appearing along the 101 Freeway traveled by his family.
“He remembered that in the proposition it said that there would not be any advertising to children,” Jenkins said Monday, “and that there specifically would not be advertising on interstate highways and the major state highways that get all the way to the border, like 101.”
The ruling prohibits billboards along 4,315 miles of interstate highways, including I-5 and I-80, and state highways that cross state borders, said Saro Rizzo, another of Farmer’s attorneys.
A spokesman for the state bureau said Monday that officials had not decided yet whether to appeal the court decision.
“We are still reviewing the ruling, and it remains to be seen what the next steps will be,” said Alex Traverso, spokesman for the state Bureau of Cannabis Control.
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