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Washington’s New Cannabis Advertising Rules Go Into Effect This Weekend

Pot shops won’t be able to use cartoons or pictures of plants and products to sell their weed anymore.

by Zach Harris

Washington State’s cannabis retailers are taking down signage, changing logos and doing everything they can to preparing for this weekend’s implementation of new marijuana advertising regulations. With a mass-sanitization of cannabis imagery, the new rules are set to radically change the way pot shops attract customers.

According to local NBC affiliate King 5, the new regulations, which go into effect tomorrow, Sunday, June 23rd, will restrict licensed cannabis retailers to two large permanently affixed signs (including billboards) and ban sandwich board signage, flags, sign spinners, and any other outdoor advertising.

In addition to the outdoor signage ban, the new regulations will also set strict rules for what can be posted on the allowed signs and store windows and awnings. Pot shops will no longer be able to use images of cannabis plants or products, cartoons, characters or anything else that could be construed as targeting children.

In addition to the list of advertising tools not allowed, pot shops will now be required to clearly add text to any advertising or signage that clearly states cannabis is age restricted to those 21 years and older.

For State Senator Ann Rivers, who sponsored the marijuana advertising legislation, the move to make cannabis boring is, at its root, an effort to protect the industry from uncertain federal protections.

“Washington is doing so well that [the federal government] won’t enter the state for enforcement unless it’s invited. So we need to keep a clean house so we don’t get unwelcomed attention,” Sen. Rivers said.

The lawmaker’s mind was made up after a trip to Seattle lead Rivers to worry about Washington’s standing with the Obama-era Cole Memo, the informal regulations allowing legal weed to exist without federal interference.

“I was blown away by what I saw in Seattle,” Rivers said. “There was an ad with a girl used in a sexually suggestive way, and I thought oh my gosh, this could be a real Cole Memo violation.”

At Seattle’s Dockline Cannabis, the new regulations are troubling dispensary co-owner Oscar Velasco-Schmitz, who says that advertising has been a key factor in shaping their business.

“I was a bit concerned because you want to be able to create a traditional business.”  Velasco-Schmitz said. “In order to do that you need to be able to convert the consumer, So you want normal channels to do that, and advertising is one of the ways to do it.”

But while the outcome of the advertising ban won’t be felt until after the rules officially go into effect this weekend, Velasco-Schmitz says that the cannabis community is rushing to meet regulations, and stay on the right side of local laws.

“People are prepping for it, they’re bracing.” Velasco-Schmitz said. “And they may be bracing for a paper tsunami, there may be nothing coming and there may be no impact.”


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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