A new Washington State law that went into effect on Sunday will make it a bit more difficult to spot Seattle’s numerous pot shops and a lot more boring for those who have enjoyed the city’s creative cannabis ads and billboards.
There will be no more cuddly mascots or meowing kitties.
“No sandwich boards, no flags, no sign spinners—the things people are putting value judgments on that they find unappealing or gross,” said Oscar Velasco-Schmitz, co-owner of Dockside Cannabis.
Signs have to indicate that cannabis is only for adults over 21 and will not be allowed to show pictures of pot plants, products or use movie or cartoon characters.
The first cannabis billboards went up in Seattle in summer 2014, and they were clever.
“We used to have a very fun image of folks jumping off of a dock into a lake,” said Velasco-Schmitz.
State Senator, Ann Rivers, who sponsored the bill restricting weed business advertising, says the regulations are akin to those placed on the alcohol and tobacco industries in an attempt not to be appealing to children.
While cannabis entrepreneurs would agree that advertising to children is out of line, please Ms. Rivers, do not compare weed ads—or weed for that matter—to dangerous, addictive tobacco and the well-documented unethical tactics the industry used to push it.
Remember Joe Camel?
To name a few: There were the “More doctors smoke Camels” and “Play safe with Philip Morris” campaigns. In a news clip from 1971, then Philip Morris CEO Joseph Cullman told pregnant moms it was OK to smoke cigarettes. And unbelievably, cigarette ads used to appear on such popular children’s TV shows such as The Flintstones; cigarette brand Winston advertised on the Beverly Hillbillies. That changed in 1964 with the Cigarette Advertising Code.
Naturally, cannabis business owners recognize the concern about not appealing to children, but they wonder if this new law is really an attempt to reign in the industry and prevent marijuana from becoming normalized.
“I was a bit concerned because you want to be able to create a traditional business. In order to do that, you need to be able to convert the consumer… and advertising is one of the ways to do it,” said Velasco-Schmitz. “This is a good just like any other good on the market.”
“We typically see middle age folks in here,” he added. “We also have some younger, 21-plus consumers that come in.”
But overtly attempting to appeal to children? No way.
“We’re cooperatively, actively pursuing good regulations to make sure we don’t attract underage users.” said Ezra Eickmeyer, owner of Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop in Seattle. “We’re being responsible here and solving our own problems.”