Washington State Cannabis Advertising Rules Take a Hit

Regulations for legal cannabis are constantly evolving and now, three years after Washington’s first day of legal cannabis sales, the rules continue to change.

Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board just released its latest regulatory updates to the advertising restrictions and cannabis businesses may be dismayed, which may require signage updates and the discarding of past advertising efforts. The legislation, Senate Bill 5131, is aimed at more strictly regulating Washington’s cannabis industry in the hopes of avoiding a looming crackdown by the federal government.

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Coming into effect July 23, 2017, businesses will be limited to:

  • Two signs (maximum 1,600 square inches) permanently affixed to the building or other structure on the licensed premises
  • No sign spinners, sandwich boards, inflatables, or persons in costume will be permitted.
  • Signs may not contain depictions of plants or cannabis products, use movie or cartoon characters, or include any other depiction that may appeal to children.

Signs are limited to the following information:

  • Business or trade name
  • Business location
  • Nature of the business
  • Images (no plants, products, cartoons, etc.)
  • Logos (logo may not contain plants, products, appeal to children, etc.)
  • Must contain text stating that cannabis products may be purchased or possessed only by adults 21 years of age and older.

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Billboards will also face similar restrictions:

  • Must contain text stating that cannabis products may only be purchased or possessed by adults 21 years of age and older
  • May not contain depictions of plants, cannabis products, movie or cartoon characters, or any other depiction that may appeal to children
  • Billboards may contain images (no plants, products, cartoons, etc.)
  • Billboard may contain logo (logo may not contain plants, products, appeal to children, etc.)
  • Billboards must contain all warnings as required for advertising under Washington state law

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The new rules extend beyond the premises of the cannabis business to the general nature of advertising a business in public. For example, transit advertising is prohibited. This includes:

  • Public or private vehicles
  • Bus stops
  • Taxi stands
  • Transportation waiting areas
  • Train stations
  • Airports
  • Vinyl-wrapped vehicles
  • Delivery vehicles with logos
  • Company cars

These new regulations also include a stipulation that will allow a city, town, or county to adopt rules on outdoor advertising that are more restrictive than those outlined here.

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The move could also create new changes impacting retailers in a positive way:

  • Licensed retailers will now be permitted to hold five retail outlets, up from the previous three permitted
  • Businesses that have been approved for a license but fail to open a dispensary or retail store within two years must surrender their license
  • Businesses that are approved for a license may be required to forfeit their license if the town or county imposes a moratorium on cannabis businesses or if zoning laws do not permit the opening of a marijuana shop
  • WSLCB must inform all licensees in the county upon the cancellation or suspension of a retail license

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Will these rules affect your cannabis business? Let us know in the comments!

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