Remember that really funny ad from the Super Bowl this year? Yeah, me neither. TV commercials just aren’t as funny as we’d like to remember them being. Fortunately, someone has discovered the secret ingredient that makes TV ads funny again: marijuana. A company called MarijuanaDoctors.com, which hooks up patients with doctors who prescribe pot, has started airing what it claims is the first marijuana commercial on a major network. The minute-long spot will soon be playing in New Jersey, Chicago and Massachusetts on Fox, Comedy Central, CNN, ESPN, AMC, Discovery and, of course, the Food Channel.
Marijuana is going through a legal revolution in the U.S. that would hardly have been imaginable a decade ago. Colorado and Washington were the first to legalize recreational pot use in 2012 referendums, and legalization is being pursued in a dozen other states, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. President Barack Obama (of “choom gang” fame) recently said marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and he wants the experiments with legalization to go forward.
In 2012, there were more people arrested in the U.S. for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. (Another fascinating fact: As many as 62 percent of Americans haven’t yet admitted to trying marijuana, according to a Gallup poll.) MarijuanaDoctors.com’s commercial doesn’t promote legalization of pot for having fun. But it makes the same point as many advocates — that legalization marginalizes the criminal element by making it unnecessary. Twenty states currently allow medical marijuana, and 15 states have lifted criminal penalties for possessing a small amount of cannabis.
The ad will be shown 800 times in New Jersey (after 10 p.m.) and is approved for additional markets where medical marijuana is legal, according to spokeswoman Melissa Kennedy. She said the company has approved a medical-marijuana ad before but wasn’t sure whether MarijuanaDoctors.com was the first to span multiple large markets. The company’s lawyers wouldn’t approve an ad for recreational marijuana, even in states where it’s now legal, she said. “That’s not where their comfort level is right now.”
While the new ad may be the first for mass-market TV, it’s not the first to make the rounds on the Internet. This one, by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), was submitted in a contest for a free small-business Superbowl ad. The video won the first-round popular vote, but didn’t make it to the big game. Then there’s the “No Hangovers” ad by the Marijuana Policy Project — initially targeted at NASCAR fans — which has racked up almost 1.2 million views on Youtube. The war on drugs may not be over. But it’s definitely getting a little funnier.
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