SFMTA prohibits Muni marijuana ads in San Francisco

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board today unanimously voted to ban cannabis advertising on city buses, trains and at transit stops, citing a need to protect youth.

The policy change, which puts cannabis products in the same prohibited category as alcohol, tobacco and firearms, was proposed in response to complaints about cannabis ads and "uncertainty" in the regulatory environment while the city works toward finalizing regulations for the 
cannabis industry, according to SFMTA staff.

The proposal called for the issue to be revisited in six months. However, SFMTA board members today said they were more motivated by a concern for advertising products not legal to those under 18 on buses that carry large numbers of minors.

"I am hearing from my board that regardless of the regulatory environment we are not likely to want to advertise cannabis based on the fact that we have so many kids on our uses," Board Chair Cheryl Brinkman said.

"This is definitely not a value judgment, it's simply falling in line with what standards advertising practices are," Brinkman said.

Advertisers who have already bought space will still be allowed to run their ads. Only two speakers addressed the policy change, with both expressing support.

California voters approved marijuana legalization with the passage of Prop. 64 in November 2016.

Cannabis industry advertising is expected to grow after marijuana becomes fully legal in the state on Jan. 1, meaning the SFMTA could be passing up some potential revenue with the advertising ban.

The Board of Supervisors is currently working out the details of land use and permit policies for cannabis related businesses in San Francisco. However, board members have so far run up against deep disagreements over issues such as how far from schools they can be located or whether caps are appropriate for specific neighborhoods.

A vote scheduled for last Tuesday was postponed until after Thanksgiving to allow negotiations to continue. The postponement means the city's regulations for recreational cannabis sales will not be in place as of Jan. 1.