San Diego Bans Marijuana Billboards Within 1,000 Feet of Children Gathering Locations

by on January 14, 2020 · 33 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

by Ken Stone / Times of San Diego / January 13, 2020

The San Diego City Council Monday approved a ban on marijuana billboards within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, public park, day care center or youth center.

The council voted 9-0 in support of the changes championed by Councilman Chris Cate after hearing from community members, most of them in favor.

Cate said the changes were necessary because state law applied to legitimate cannabis businesses advertising on billboards and is enforceable only by state officials, and not applicable to illegal cannabis businesses.

“Today’s action will allow San Diego to enforce regulations on billboard advertisements from both permitted and non-permitted cannabis businesses,” Cate said. “These rules provide us a greater ability to enforce regulations at the local level to ensure cannabis billboards are not placed near locations where children frequent.”

The ordinance “strikes the right balance” while protecting constitutional rights, Cate added.

Phil Rath of United Medical Marijuana Coalition said his group was supportive.

“We’re very constrained in where we advertise,” Rath said. “We don’t think it’s appropriate to have cannabis advertising right on top of a grade school.

“Nothing burns my members worse than a big billboard for an illegitimate delivery service,” Rath added. “We hope this will result in people going to safe and legal facilities.”

Several other speakers urged the council to go further and ban all marijuana billboard advertising, arguing as the existing ads are too influential on young people, who are using marijuana in greater numbers.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page January 14, 2020 at 1:16 pm

I’m going looking for a billboard advertising alcohol with 1,000 feet of any children and demand the council take a similar action. Then there’s MacDonald’s, Burger King, Popeye’s, etc. that need to be banned because the promote obesity and heart disease. That’s just for starters.


retired botanist January 14, 2020 at 1:54 pm gawd. Geoff you are SO right. The hypocrisy is absurd!! The City has been continually dragged, kicking and screaming, into acceptance of the legalization of marijuana and we’re all sick to death of it. Harassing, shaming, confiscating, withholding of permits, draconian and ridiculous rules on locations. Yet, on every corner, surrounding any school, church, or residential area are literally hundreds of advertisements for alcohol, dozens and dozens of venues selling alcohol, the Alcohol Board allowing 300 % alcohol licensing in OB alone. I mean, wtf? Surely the City should have better things to do than peddling the reefer madness myth and “overprotecting” children from presumed bad influence. Give me a break :(


Geoff Page January 14, 2020 at 2:49 pm

Thank you, retired, for venting exactly what was thinking! Sometimes I get so flummoxed by the stupidity that I don’t know how to respond, not for a lack of thoughts but for way too many of them that I don’t know where to start. I tend to drift toward humor, even if it is black. They’ve been re-running Reefer Madness on TV for some time now. I thought it was meant as entertainment and a laugh, like we all did when we discovered it in college many years ago. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m beginning to wonder if the people re-running it are serious and that our city council members watched in rapt attention and believe it. Unanimous vote. Not a single reasonable person on that hallowed body.


retired botanist January 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm

Geoff, I know, right?! Honestly, so many relevant gripes come to mind (oh, and btw, get ready for major alcohol ads w/ the upcoming Superbowl, just for the educational and “influential” record). Here’s one: What do we see everywhere? “Drink responsibly”. So that’s the “Go Free” card for the alcohol industry. So… what do you think the response to “Smoke responsibly” would be? If alcohol billboards can print that, why not marijuana billboards?
And for those who aren’t chemists, I might point out that alcohol is a pickling agent. It kills cells, tissues, and its only medical efficacy is local sterilization. Marijuana, on the other hand- well, not gonna bore everyone w/ the comparisons and recent medical research on the efficacies of THC.
The City should have required reading on the subject. Forget protecting the children, let’s educate the adults first!


Geoff Page January 14, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Great idea, retired. How about “Toke” responsibly? If we’re gonna ruffle some feathers, let’s go all the way!

Then you had to go all scientific and factual on us as if the facts have anything to do with it. You are right, educating adults is what is needed, but have you ever tried it? Not easy.


kh January 15, 2020 at 2:59 pm

San Diego has a 600 ft distance requirement for places selling alcohol from schools. They can get around this if they get a conditional use permit.

I don’t know of any advertising restrictions.


Rufus January 15, 2020 at 9:08 am

I’m uncomfortable with government limiting advertising for legal businesses. It’s a free speech issue for me. Advertising for liquor, cigarettes and MJ, go ahead. It’s not going to effect my buying habits. As far as kids, that’s a parenting issue. “Raise your children well.”

Billboards are a different kettle of fish. They’re structures that should be managed through local zoning regs.

And retired, “the city should have required reading”? I realize that’s a wish to get people to act like a responsible adult, but I really don’t want the government telling me what I should read. Just think about what the Donald or Bernie could come up with for us to read. No thanks!!


Geoff Page January 15, 2020 at 12:15 pm

I think you may have misunderstood what retired botanist wrote, she meant that the council members should have required reading to educate themselves, not required reading for the rest of us.


retired botanist January 15, 2020 at 1:33 pm

yep, Rufus, Geoff clarified my comment well- I don’t want the Govt telling me what to read, either! And I totally concur with your point about parenting- this sort of thing is completely overreaching! I remember years ago when my child, ca 7 yrs old, came home wearing some school sticker that said “drugs are bad” or something (probably shortly after Reagan’s Presidency). So we had a useful conversation about the fact that not all drugs are bad, some drugs save lives, some drugs are good in small amounts etc etc. Governments and schools are not supposed to be substitutions for parents, that’s not their job description.


Peter from South O January 15, 2020 at 11:12 am

How about just banning the damn billboards within 1000′ of any of the protected categories? The things are horrid anyway. And don’t get me started on the Las Vegas style signs next to the freeways.


Geoff Page January 15, 2020 at 12:18 pm

I agree wholeheartedly, Peter, I’d go one step more and ban them entirely. Billboards may have had a use years ago but they are simply anachronisms now.


retired botanist January 15, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Yeah, no kidding Peter, where’s Lady Bird Johnson when we need her?! I agree, they’re a blight in any viewshed, protected or not!


Peter from South O January 15, 2020 at 3:37 pm

See? There y’all goin’ all extreme on the subject. What a couple of Earth loving hippies! I am honored to throw my support on your bandwagon ;-).
There is a lot of history on San Diego’s fight against billboards, and a lot of big-money support, as well as (believe it or not) 1st Amendment issues. I used to live in Normal Heights and we actually MARCHED down Adams Avenue to get rid of them in the ’70s. Take a look around 35th and Adams to see how effective we were.


sealintheSelkirks January 19, 2020 at 2:03 pm

I’m not going to say too much other than when you drive into Spokane there are HUGE billboards advertising cannabis shops on the main drags.

And has anybody looked to see just how close all those banned areas are from one another? This could effectively cancel putting up any.

How about banning all junk food outlets with the same rules? We KNOW how much those poison children’s bodies… No McD or Burger King or Carl’s Jr or JackintheBox within a thousand feet of any of those would certainly put a crimp in their profit margins I would think!

And to be honest, I really dislike seeing a skyline full of billboards instead of the SKY anyway…

Hey retired botanist: Did you know that DARE has quietly removed the 1980s ‘cannabis is a gateway drug’ crap from their website? Yep, they did! The gateway drugs of my childhood were ALWAYS alcohol and tobacco and caffeine-laced speed drinks like sugar water soda pop colas and the parent’s coffee anyway; and looking around the drugged speed drinks have only multiplied into what is euphemistically called ‘energy drinks!’ I mean, can anybody imagine a giant billboard with ‘Drink speed to pep you up’ with those cans prominently displayed? Honesty in advertising what a concept. HAhahahaha I’m such a cynical old surfer…



Geoff Page January 20, 2020 at 1:28 pm

The worst sign pollution I had seen in many years, since I’d been in the Deep South, was a stretch of road out of Spokane on my way to Idaho. I drove down a stretch of road that was like a sign nightmare, it was the proverbial poster child of why there are sign laws now. For us, the last real vestiges of that are the billboards. These should go the way of the dodo.


retired botanist January 21, 2020 at 4:49 am

wow, no, I haven’t been to Spokane, but if you guys did any traveling along the eastern seaboard as children you might remember the famous Stuckey’s Pecan shop road signs? We used to count them! There were probably 30 of them strung out along the highway in Georgia, hideous things, right next to the Brylcream and Burma shave signs! I haven’t driven that route in decades, hopefully they’re gone now. Remarkably, my folks never actually stopped there; haha, so I never had a “pecan log”, I guess b/c we were focused on getting past those southern states and down to Key West, our hometown!
Seal’s comment re ‘energy drinks’ is so on point! Its all about language, isn’t it?


Geoff Page January 21, 2020 at 11:21 am

Stuckey’s! Yea! I remember it fondly. I can’t believe your folks never stopped at one, that’s amazing. We stopped at several and I had pecan logs and a candy they made. You really missed out. I just Googled them and they are still around. Yea, the South always was a great place for roadside signs.

Key West was your hometown? My dad was stationed there when I was a little kid. According to my sister, she saved my life by pulling me out of the drink and regretted it ever since. Love the Keys, but not between May and October. Must have been a great place to grow up.


Peter from South O January 21, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Personal observation only, unsupported by proven facts, that Wall Drugs was the grand-champion of highway and byway roadside billboards. When they start off saying “100 miles to Wall Drugs – Free Ice Water!” and then every mile thereafter . . .


Geoff Page January 21, 2020 at 12:49 pm

My favorite was from the movie The Great Race: You Should Have Bought A Squirrel


retired botanist January 21, 2020 at 3:46 pm

Haha, Peter, I actually know Wall Drug! Spent a couple years in Rapid City in the late 90s. Yeah, true that! When we actually got to Wall Drug… well, there you are with the midwest and the odd amalgamation of pioneer west and the Native Americans. Have to say, Pine Ridge was much more enlightening for me, as was Crazy Horse vs. Rushmore…the American landscape is surely part of its history. So, segue back to marijuana billboards, how do we think this tempest in a teapot will reflect in history, when we think back on prohibition?! :)


Peter from South O January 21, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Well, to segue with great prejudice, the key element on the political and “Big Bud” side is the non-licensed delivery services that populate most (not all, but most) of the billboards in question. The City needs to protect the tax income from the legitimate dispensaries and delivery services, and the State laws about advertising only apply to those legitimate businesses. Sooooo, this is really just closing a loophole?


Geoff Page January 21, 2020 at 5:10 pm

Not discounting what you’ve said, Peter, but I don’t think this was done to protect tax revenue. If it was, then all they had to do was ban advertising for illegal businesses. I honestly think most of these people still think Mary Jane will lead to heroin and the horrors they saw in Reefer Madness. Or, they feel pressure from those who do. The one good thing about t-rump is that he has exposed the amount of ignorance out there in Amurica.


Peter from South O January 21, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Geoff, you have been around City politics long enough to know how ordinances turn out to be unenforceable if they are written too broadly. Banning advertising for illegal businesses? Way too tenuous a definition.
As for the tax revenue, how do you think the lobbying went down before this vote? Big Bud uses that leverage (as they should) in a lot of their interactions with the local pols.


Geoff Page January 22, 2020 at 9:29 am

Peter, pot delivery is illegal. If there is a billboard advertising it, the sign should have to come down. They can’t put up a billboard for prostitution or heroin sales, those would be gone immediately.

As for the lobbyists in the pot industry, it is not in their interests to have sign limitations for legitimate pot businesses that do advertise on billboards.


Peter from South O January 22, 2020 at 10:08 am

What ever gave you the idea that pot delivery is illegal? That is not true; there are several dispensaries that deliver in San Diego.
The legal industry in San Diego is being hurt pretty badly by the constant pop-up illegal shops; it’s a case of wack-a-mole on the part of enforcement and the billboards are a major draw for these places.
I stand by my statement that trying to craft an ordinance to prohibit “advertising illegal stuff” would be so cumbersome to be unenforceable in practice; that is why it is not done.

Geoff Page January 22, 2020 at 10:32 am

Ok, so I misspoke, Peter. Delivery from unlicensed clinics is illegal. The city only approved a small list of dispensaries. It would take little effort to see if the billboard was for a legal dispensary or not. If not, the sign comes down.

And I stand by my statement that it is already not legal to advertise illegal businesses like the ones I mentioned already. I am not a fan of using a sledge hammer to swat a fly.

Vern January 22, 2020 at 11:10 am

In this case, Eaze is a delivery platform, not a dispensary. A cannabis consumer buys through the Eaze app and an Eaze driver picks up the cannabis product at a local licensed “partner” dispensary and delivers it to the cannabis customer. Similar to grubhub, doordash and crap like that.

Geoff Page January 22, 2020 at 11:15 am

Thanks for that information, Vern. So, if the billboards are advertising for a service to a legal dispensary, I see no problem with it. Peter had described “non-licensed delivery services” in his post, which was what started this discussion.

Sam January 21, 2020 at 10:57 am

I’d take this a step further and ban all outdoor advertising. Nothing but a distraction.


sealintheSelkirks January 21, 2020 at 4:10 pm

Geoff: Still the same shitty billboard bonanza look but far more buildings between Spokane and Cour d’Alene now than when I was doing rep trips for shop & resort orders back in the 90s. The destroyers of the earth have been filling it in with car dealerships and mini-malls and apartment complexes etc etc, the proverbial rot that eventually makes two cities one in all but name. And noticeably more in the last 15 years that I’ve lived here. Not much in the way of ‘sign laws’ I guess, at least here in the NE corner. But hey, we did legalize cannabis and passed the right-to-die law so there are a few flowers growing in the pig-pen!

retired biologist: HA. Flash of memory! I remember those signs and stopping for those pecan thingies while hitch-hiking the East Coast with a surfboard under my arm in the early 70s. YUM, those things were tasty! I haven’t thought of those since the 1970s. I’m surprised they are still in business since even NECCO wafer candy and the valentine heart candies closed last year (New England Candy Company). And Hershey fired everybody in Hershey Penn. and now it’s all made in Mexico by people we have really derogatory names for….

And yes, some days I do nail hypocrisy quite well, don’t I?



sealintheSelkirks January 21, 2020 at 4:12 pm

Oh, and Sam, I ‘d ban ALL cell phones except for emergency use only. Talk about a freaking distraction, this is the king of them all. I read somewhere recently that cell phone-caused car accidents have now surpassed drunk drivers.



Sam January 21, 2020 at 6:28 pm

I’m down with banning cell phones too!


Peter from South O January 21, 2020 at 8:42 pm

Seal: Be careful what you read for sources. The statistics from NHTSA tell a different story, with 1.6million accidents attributed to cell phone distracted driving, while alcohol impairment was a contributing cause in 121million accidents.
That is quite a gap between the two groups.
I have no idea how they counted drunk texters . . .


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