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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ban on billboards for pot stores considered by Washington House committee

One of David Taylor's marijuana plants are seen at his growing facilities on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Spokane, Wash. Taylor said that regulation makes it hard for small growers to stay afloat financially. Licensed marijuana stores would face a statewide ban on billboards ads under a bill considered Tuesday by a Washington House committee. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Licensed marijuana stores, which already are restricted in what they can put on a billboard, would face a statewide ban on that type of advertising on billboards under a bill considered Tuesday by a House committee.

Members of the House Commerce and Gaming Committee said they were concerned with the proliferation of marijuana billboards, particularly in urban areas.

“Every two to five miles, there’s a billboard advertising marijuana,” Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland said. “There’s too many, especially for our children.”

But representatives of the billboard industry argued legal marijuana businesses have a right to promote their products.

“The people of Washington have already spoken,” Mike Luinstra, of Lamar Advertising, said. “They vote for (marijuana) to come out of the shadows.”

Marijuana stores already can’t advertise on television or radio because of federal restrictions, he said. The state places strong restrictions on what the stores can say on the billboards, so that it’s basically the name, the location and the fact that buyers must be over 21.

The state, the marijuana businesses and others negotiated restrictions on billboards to keep them from advertising to minors. Those restrictions went into effect in 2018 and should be given a chance to work, James Worhle, another Lamar employee, said.

In Spokane County, marijuana stores are a significant part of the company’s business, Worhle said. If cities, towns or counties have a problem with advertising, they could adopt local ordinances, he said, but the state shouldn’t.

The committee will decide whether to send the bill to the full House in the coming weeks.