Why Aren’t There More Marijuana Advertisements?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

From the burping Bud-wei-ser frogs, to Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, alcohol commercials are not only common in our culture, they’re iconic. We daydream of Corona’s island paradise. And by night, we jet-set to Vegas, sipping Ciroc with Diddy — if only in our minds.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, with medical policy approved in 20 states, plus D.C., yet we don’t see sexy advertisements for weed on our screens. Why is that?

The First Medical Marijuana TV Commercial… Or Is It?

Earlier this month we were introduced to the first medical marijuana commercial planned to air on a major TV network. The ad spot for MarijuanaDoctors.com showcases a street dealer slangin’ sushi from his coat pockets. The point is to convince viewers that they should stop buying pot on the streets, and instead, find a doctor who legally prescribes medical marijuana.

The MarijuanaDoctors.com commercial attracted a ton of media coverage in early March, with articles stating how the spot aired on Fox, ESPN and Comedy Central in New Jersey and Chicago. But the reality is, it never aired on television. “The ad has not appeared via Comcast Spotlight and reports and statements to the contrary are incorrect,” said Comcast spokesman Steven Restivo. “All commercials are subject to final review by Comcast Spotlight … it was determined that the spot did not meet our guidelines.”

MPP’s Pro-Marijuana Commercial at NASCAR

MarijuanaDoctors.com wasn’t the first company to attempt the small screen. Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a pro-marijuana legalization advocacy group, made a deal with NASCAR to air a pro-pot commercial on jumbotron displays outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 2013 Brickyard 400 race. The ad praises marijuana as the new beer, listing “no calories,” “no hangovers” and “no violence” as a few of the drug’s perks.

The “New Beer” spot did air outside the NASCAR race in July, but not for long. “We decided to pull ultimately because it’s not obviously a great fit for the NASCAR audience, for the family kind of oriented audience…” said Grazie Media CEO Vanessa Wojtala. In response, MPP’s Mason Tvert said: “This is the exact type of hypocrisy that motivated us to run this ad. We wanted to make people think about the absurdity of laws that allow adults to use alcohol but punish them for making the safer choice to use marijuana.”

If NASCAR says no, what about the Super Bowl?

NORML’s Pro-Pot Super Bowl Commercial

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was one of many small organizations to create a Super Bowl commercial and submit it to Intuit’s “Small Business, Big Game” contest last fall. Their one-minute commercial gives a voice to a variety of pot supporters – the teacher, the student, the cancer patient. NORML’s ad spot did not make it past round two of voting. Erik Altieri, NORML’s Communications Director, suspected foul play, and had this to say: “It is unfortunate that Intuit seems to be relying more on outdated political values instead of overwhelming public opinion when it comes to selecting which entries advanced in their contest.”

Marijuana PSA Campaign in Colorado

In response to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, the state rolled out a public service announcement campaign. The purpose of the three-part commercial series is to educate people that if you get high — by smoking or ingesting marijuana — and drive, you can get a DUI. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the legal limit for marijuana in the blood is 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter. Here is the third PSA.

Marijuana Advertisements on Social Media

And, why aren’t we seeing marijuana ads popping up on social media? Despite marijuana policy changes, both Facebook and Google are keeping their original advertising rules. The promotion of drugs, including marijuana, is forbidden. And even in the case of geo-targeting visitors located in states where marijuana is legal, the web companies are still saying no to pot ad dollars.

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