By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Local city and law enforcement officials said that apparently, he can, when they were asked after Ted Smithers appeared on U.S. Highway 101 in Port Angeles waving to cars Tuesday while wearing a green Grateful Dead bear costume and a sandwich board advertising a “discrete” medical marijuana delivery service.
“This is a first. So I don't know the answer,” Police Chief Terry Gallagher said.
“I do know that marijuana is now legal and that advertising, in general, enjoys First Amendment protections. Ergo, this is probably legal.”
Smithers spent three hours Tuesday evening advertising www.chronicallyontime.com, a medical marijuana delivery business that serves patients across the North Olympic Peninsula.
Liz Beavers, owner of www.chronicallyontime.com, said the bear will continue to show up around the area.
“We checked all the laws, and there's nothing wrong with advertising,” Beavers said.
“The bear's going to be kind of like our mascot.”
Nathan West, community and economic development director, noted that several businesses use sandwich board advertising in Port Angeles and said the delivery business is subject to the same laws.
“There is nothing in sign or zoning code that prohibits this type of sign,” he said.
Port Angeles has not taken any position on medical marijuana, he added.
Several medical marijuana dispensaries currently operate on the Peninsula.
Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said he did not know of any legal restrictions on medical marijuana advertising.
He directed the Peninsula Daily News to the State Liquor Control Board, which oversees the recreational marijuana market — as opposed to medical marijuana, which requires a doctor's prescription.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in November 2012 when voters passed Initiative 502.
Medical marijuana was made legal in Washington with the 1998 passage of Initiative 692.
Liquor board spokesman Brian Smith noted that his agency has no control over medical marijuana.
He said his agency is working to determine limits on advertising for the retail marijuana outlets expected to open in July.
“Advertising and marketing is an area with a lot of questions and not necessarily straightforward answers at this point,” Smith said.
“We can point to the law and the rules, but a lot of advertising falls under the First Amendment.”
For now, the liquor board is asking recreational marijuana businesses to submit advertising plans to them for review so they can set up advertising standards.
Recreational marijuana stores have been approved for sites in Forks, Discovery Bay, Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Sequim.
West did not foresee a proliferation of marijuana businesses advertising street-side.
“State law limits Port Angeles to two such stores, so even if both chose this technique for advertising, you will not see a substantial increase in this approach,” he said.
Retail recreational stores, under I-502, are limited to one 1,600-square-inch sign on the store that must include the business' name.
Stores owners are also prohibited from advertising “in any form or through any medium whatsoever” within 1,000 feet of school grounds, playgrounds, child care facilities, public parks, libraries or game arcades that allow minors to enter.
Shops are also forbidden from advertising on public property.
Beavers said her business focuses on discrete delivery of medical marijuana to patients “who don't necessarily want to be seen walking into store fronts.”
She delivers in an unmarked car to patients' doorsteps.
“The bear's not discrete,” she said.
“But when I come to deliver to your house, I don't have any markings or logos.
“Nobody knows why I'm there but the patient.”
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.