An effort is currently underway in the California legislature to ban marijuana billboards from the state’s 15,000+ miles of highway, which is 265 highways in all. When Proposition 64 passed in November, legalizing the growth, sales and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes, it contained a provision that banned recreational billboards from the roughly 4,300 miles of highway that cross state borders. Now lawmakers want to extend that ban to all highways in the state and also include medical marijuana businesses in the ban.
“Without AB 64, this exception would eclipse the rule and our children would see cannabis ads across the state,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), one of the authors of the billboard ban legislation. “We feel that all highways, and not just ones which cross state lines, are inappropriate venues for cannabis advertising, particularly as Proposition 64 required an adult audience for advertisements other than billboards.”
Tommy Chong, who is featured in some of the billboards that are currently in place, said the proposed ban represents “antiquated thinking.” “It’s totally not justified,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “It shows you how ignorant they still are. It’s been proven that marijuana is not only harmless, but it’s good for you. So what are they protecting? Who are they protecting?”
If you ask one of the legislators behind the bill that question, they will invariably say “the children.” But the state of California has no laws against alcohol billboards, although some cities do. Isn’t alcohol much more dangerous than marijuana?
In fact, children are exposed to alcohol advertising in every form – from TV, radio and the Internet to billboards and even the names of sports stadiums. But seeing Tommy Chong on a billboard will somehow harm them and lead them down the path to destruction?
The ban bill reportedly has bipartisan support, but to amend Prop 64 it will need 2/3rds of the vote to pass.
Stories like this are a reminder that activists still have a long way to go when it comes to erasing the stigma that surrounds cannabis. For many it is still the dangerous drug that they were warned about in their school’s D.A.R.E. program or by some other ill-informed source. They still see it as something children must be shielded from at all costs when they should be focused on education and telling kids the truth about a much-maligned substance that has been very beneficial to humans for thousands of years.