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Seattle Sees First Marijuana Billboards, Gigantic Aerial Banner To Follow

Gabriel Spitzer
Dama's billbaord in Lower Queen Anne doesn't show any cannabis.

Passersby in several Seattle neighborhoods might notice the benign-looking billboards picturing a fit young couple with backpacks atop a mountain, or a bearded, flannel-clad man in front of a tent. You have to look a little closer to notice that the billboards are doing something brand new: openly advertising a cannabis company.

State-licensed grower and processor Dama Cannabis has five billboards up around Seattle, with about 10 more to come, along with one great big aerial banner to be towed over Centurylink Field during a Seahawks preseason game and over the waterfront parks during Hempfest.

'Testing The Waters'

“This is definitely [the marijuana] industry testing the waters,” said Hilary Bricken, an attorney with Canna Law Group. She notes state law prohibits marijuana advertising within a thousand feetof schools, day cares or parks. Dama’s sky banner — all 3,000 square feet of it — is specifically intended to be read by Hempfest attendeesin three Seattle parks.

Bricken says the company seems to be reading the law pretty liberally.

“Why prohibit advertising within a certain perimeter of a certain structure? It’s because you don’t want it to be seen by people frequenting those locations,” she said. “So technically if they’re not within 1,000 feet of any of the perimeter of any of these offensive structures, my opinion is that they haven’t violated the administrative code, although they may have offended the spirit of the law.”

'We’re Not Throwing Joints Out Of An Airplane'

Dama marketing manager Jessica Ivey says the company isn't trying to push up against the regulations. She notes that the advertisements don't even show any marijuana.

“Everything that we’re trying to do is to project a responsible message,” Ivey said. “You know, we’re not throwing joints out of an airplane.”

Attorneys say if nothing else, the pilot of the plane towing that banner had better be sure to fly more than a thousand feet above parks and schools.

And Dama could run into trouble with one other bit of Washington’s law. Any advertising for cannabis products must contain certain language, stating that the product is an intoxicant and can impair judgment. Dama’s first billboards don’t appear to have that language visible.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is working with the state attorney general’s office to develop advertising guidelines for marijuana businesses. A board spokesman said he expects that guidance to be completed within the next few weeks.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.