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City Council OKs Ban On Pot Billboards Near Schools, Public Parks

Cars in City Heights drive by a marijuana billboard advertisement on June 18, 2019 in San Diego.
Nicholas McVicker
Cars in City Heights drive by a marijuana billboard advertisement on June 18, 2019 in San Diego.

The San Diego City Council Monday tentatively approved a ban on marijuana billboards within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, public park, daycare 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. The ordinance requires a second reading before taking effect, said Rebecca Kelley, Cate's deputy chief of staff and communications.

Cate said the changes were necessary because state law only 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."

RELATED: City Heights Activists Call For More Regulation Of Billboards Advertising Marijuana

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.