California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed marijuana businesses to advertise on billboards along most highways in the state.
The legislation would “weaken” protections included in Proposition 64, the cannabis legalization ballot measure that voters approved in 2016, the governor said in a veto message.
“When the voters passed Proposition 64, they enacted robust protections shielding youth from exposure to cannabis and cannabis advertising,” Newsom wrote. “Among other things, voters completely prohibited billboard-based cannabis advertising on all Interstate Highways, and on all State Highways that cross the California border. Allowing advertising on these high-traffic thoroughfares could expose young passengers to cannabis advertising.”
In 2019, state regulators adopted rules aimed at clarifying advertising restrictions along highways that would have allowed marijuana billboards except within a 15-mile radius of the California border.
In January of this year, however, a judge ruled that those regulations conflicted with state law, finding that officials did not have sufficient authority to allow the billboards.
The new legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D), was aimed at providing that authority. The bill, AB 1302, also contained a provision barring cannabis billboard ads within a 15-mile radius of the state border.
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But with the governor’s veto, cannabis billboard won’t be allowed anywhere on California freeways and interstates.
“California can refine and advance its regulation of cannabis while also remaining faithful to the will of the voters, and I will continue to work with the author to strike this balance,” he wrote.
Newsom has signed several other cannabis bills this session that are backed by reform supporters, however.
On Wednesday, for example, he approved a bill to boost the state’s hemp industry by legalizing retail sales of a wide range of consumable products derived from the plant—including CBD-infused foods, beverages, cosmetics and dietary supplements. It will also eventually allow the sales of smokable hemp products in the state.
Last month, Newsom signed separate legislation to require hospitals to permit medical marijuana use by certain patients in their facilities.
Separately, a California bill that passed the Senate and several Assembly committees to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca has stalled following a decision by the sponsor that more time is needed to build the case for the reform and solidify its chances of being enacted.
That said, California activists have recently been cleared to begin collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin mushrooms in the state.
California officials are also making millions of dollars available for grants programs to support marijuana social equity initiatives and assist localities in processing pending cannabis business license applications.
Next year’s California State Fair will host a first-of-its-kind, state-sanctioned cannabis competition.