OLYMPIA – On 4/20, a day some marijuana users celebrate, Washington lawmakers passed new restrictions on the way the drug can be advertized by the state’s licensed pot shops.
Negotiators reached a compromise on the bill, which had moved back and forth between the House and Senate for weeks, allowing both chambers to pass it Thursday. It restricts marijuana stores from using ads that could attract children or teens, with warnings that the products can only be purchased by adults.
It would ban the stores from using toys, cartoon characters or other images “likely to be appealing to youth” in ads, and forbid them to hire a “commercial mascot” – a person in a costume or a mechanical device – to stand or walk outside the shop to attract customers.
Billboards would be limited to text that identifies the store and its location. They would be able to say it’s a marijuana store, but not have pictures of the plants, any of their products or have any images appealing to children.
Outdoor advertising would also be banned on signs in arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, state and county fairs, farmers markets and video game arcades. Cities, towns and counties would also be allowed to pass even tougher restrictions on outdoor ads.
If signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in the coming weeks, the law would allow for marijuana delivery services, providing the person delivering the drug and the person receiving it are both 21, and as long as the product being delivered is not more than a half ounce of useable marijuana or limited amounts of edibles or concentrates. The delivery also must occur “outside the view of the general public and in a nonpublic place.”
Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, said the law is part of Washington’s ongoing process of tightening laws around legalized marijuana after voters legalized its recreational use for adults in 2012.
“We have done our best in the last three or four years to have the tightest, best-run (marijuana) industry in the United States,” Condotta said. If the bill doesn’t “bring billboards under control, we will be dealing with it in the future.”
Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, said the changes were important to keep the state adhering to the Cole Memo, a set of restrictions from the Justice Department issued during the Obama Administration that said federal enforcement would essentially leave states that have legalized marijuana alone providing the drug is not being sold to children, connected to organized crime or moving across state borders.