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14-year old pushing lawmakers for stricter pot advertising laws

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A Portland-area middle school student started an online petition pushing local and state lawmakers to create stricter guidelines on marijuana-related advertising in public spaces.

Eddie Herzig, 14, says marijuana billboards and banners may encourage marijuana use in minors.

While Herzig acknowledges there are no credible studies linking marijuana advertisement to minors' use of marijuana, he says the big, flashy, colorful billboards are being noticed by his peers.

"These are things that are made to attract attention," Herzig says of the billboards. "It's attracting the attention of kids too."

Herzig says he got the idea last year when his younger sister asked her family about marijuana after she saw signs and posters in Downtown Portland.

"That's not something that she needs to be exposed to quite yet," he said. "If she is seeing it, I'm trying to imagine who else has also seen it, or even being persuaded by it at a younger age."

Herzig would like to see marijuana advertising laws more closely aligned to those in the tobacco industry, where signs can only be displayed in certain areas, text must be a certain color and can't be advertised on billboards.

"You can't do billboard advertising on cigarettes," Herzig said. "So, why should we be allowing it for cannabis products?"

Several pot shop owners say they are interested in Herzig's petition -- including Benjamin Kirk, an owner of Belmont Collective in Southeast Portland.

"I applaud him. It's a really cool thing that a 14-year-old is getting involved in the process," Kirk said. "One of our values is keeping all of our products out of the hands of kids."

Belmont Collective advertises on 3 billboards in the Portland-area.

"Taking down the signs, I don't know if I'm four that are against that," he said. "It's definitely one of the only forms of advertising that we have."

Kirk says the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not allow marijuana ads on television or radio.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission- who manages and regulates marijuana statewide- requires pot shops to display several warning and educational signs in shops, but does not say where and how much they can advertise outside of the business.

Unlike in Oregon, advertising rules in Washington State are more clearly defined.

Marijuana retailers there are not allowed to advertise in within one thousand feet of the perimeter of a school grounds, playgrounds, recreation centers, child care center, public parks, libraries, or game arcade that serve all ages. Washington also restricts ads on or in a public transit vehicle, public transit shelters or on or in a publicly owned or operated property.

"It's a brand-new industry," Kirk said. "We can't go back, so we have to open up the dialogue and have a real conversation about how this is all going to work, and how we can do it safely and effectively."

Herzig says his petition should not be seen as an attack on the marijuana industry.

"There are some regulations on where the dispensaries can't be, but there's nothing really on where the advertising can be," Herzig said.

Read his petition here.

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