What does marijuana have to do with sushi? This weekend, the first TV ad that could be seen as promoting weed, premiered in New Jersey, started out with a slippery guy selling black-market sushi. “I got tuna, I got salmon, I got sweet shrimp. I got the finest sashimi this area has seen for years,” the guy says.
The ad ends with a voice-over saying “You wouldn’t buy your sushi from his guy, so why would you buy your marijuana from him?” Several major cable networks showed the ad in the Garden State, which now has a limited medical-marijuana program.
At least one commercial appeared in California in 2010. Most advertisers have stayed away from marijuana ads, and in Colorado, which has legalized marijuana, they are banned. A federal court suit may end that state decision. After all, beer and liquor commercials are ubiquitous. Ads promoting the legalization of marijuana have appeared in some states, because barring them would be a violation of free speech.
But no one has seen a commercial saying “I would walk the end of the block for some Maui Waui.” Jason Draizin, founder of the Medical Cannabis Network, said the goal is to make sure people buying medicinal marijuana are getting a safe product. He wants to help patients “locate doctors who will evaluate their medical condition so that they may register for a medical marijuana card and then legally obtain cannabis to alleviate their pain.”
The legal, or perhaps semi-legal, industry has a lot of catching up to do. Networks of doctors have been set up around the nation, where medical marijuana is legal, to write the prescriptions patients need. These doctors are rarely the patients’ main providers, and after a brief exam write the script they need. The fee can be as much as $150, and is not covered by any health care plans. Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C., allow some form of medical marijuana.
The industry also faces challenges from online sellers. Much medical marijuana is hemp-based, and can be legally sold over the Internet. Hemp oil is sold on eBay. Is CBD, the ingredient that much medicinal marijuana is made of and it does not get a patient high, next? The street sellers aren’t offering medicinal marijuana yet. Given that getting a medical-marijuana card makes going to the DMV a walk in the park, this market may develop. The guys in the alley also may keep the prices down for the retail recreational outlets in Colorado and Washington.
Another reason why marijuana commercials have been slow to appear is that people in general are sick of commercials. It could be compared to allowing people to talk on cellphones on an airplane.
Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership at Drugfree.org, said survey shows people nearly unanimously oppose marijuana ads. “People are not in love with advertising in general, but with marijuana you get a double whammy.” The survey asked: “In what way would you be in favor of marijuana being advertised?’ And the answer was “no way.’”
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