A San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge ruled on Friday that the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) overstepped its authority last year by allowing billboards advertising cannabis along freeways, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A ban on billboards was included in the state’s legalization law but the BCC last year adopted a regulation allowing such advertisements. Judge Ginger E. Garrett concluded the agency, and outgoing Director Lori Ajax, “exceeded their authority in promulgating the advertisement placement regulation.” The ruling bars billboards along California’s 4,315 miles of interstate highways.
Garrett ruled that because the billboard ban was included in the voter-approved legalization law, it could not be amended by the BCC through adopting a regulation.
The lawsuit was brought by Matthew Farmer, a San Luis Obispo father who voted for Prop. 64 because he didn’t think adults should be jailed for cannabis use. One of his two attorneys, Stewart Jenkins, said Farmer became concerned when cannabis ads started appearing along the 101 Freeway traveled by his family.
Alex Traverso, BCC spokesman, told the Times that the agency is “still reviewing the ruling, and it remains to be seen what the next steps will be.” The BCC could appeal the decision.
The agency said it had adopted rules prohibiting billboards within a 15-mile radius from a state border on a highway, which officials said in court documents “satisfies the intent” of Prop. 64 while still allowing licensees the “opportunity to advertise and market along Interstate and State Highways if they satisfy the identified radius limitations.”
The ruling came the same day Ajax announced her retirement after five years as head of the BCC.