What is believed to be the first medical marijuana television commercial to have run on a major network made its debut on Monday night in New Jersey and Chicago. The spot ran on on Discovery, CNN, ESPN, AMC, Fox, and Comedy Central as well as other networks. Next week, it will begin airing in Massachusetts. The spot promotes the MarijuanaDoctors website, a service that matches patients with doctors able to prescribe the drug legally.
The gist of the advertisement is that it is better to obtain medical marijuana legally than it is to purchase it from a street dealer. The “dealer” in the commercial is selling sushi. The camera’s point of view assumes the role of the buyer. The sushi dealer tries to get the viewer to purchase various types of raw fish from him by holding them in the palm of his hand, which looks unappetizing in the extreme. He also opens his jacket to display pieces of raw fish attached to the inside of his coat, which dangle down like old-timey cartoon thieves showing potential buyers a cache of stolen watches. The antsy sushi dealer is standing next to a dumpster in the alley in the process of peddling his wares as a narrator breaks in. Over the action happening on-screen, the female voice states that the viewer/buyer would not buy sushi from this guy, so why, then, would one buy marijuana from him?
Many companies at this moment in time, including Google and Facebook, will not sell ad space for recreational or medical marijuana even though they can target ads both demographically and geographically. The largest cable company in the U.S., however, did not turn up its nose at the idea. In addition, Comcast’s amenability to the advertisements bodes well for the future of the marijuana industry with regard to promoting their product on both television and the internet. Comcast Cable is by revenue the largest communications and mass media company in the world, and it is also the largest home internet service provider and cable company in the U.S.
However, it was not easy for MarijuanaDoctors to secure airtime for its commercial on a major network. The company’s CEO Jason Draizin said that the achievement of finally doing so was highly satisfying. Draizin also said that the company was pleased that Comcast, by airing the commercial, acknowledges that in the context of medical marijuana there are legitimate businesses that provide legal services to customers with legitimate needs.
Comcast has limited the commercial’s air time to between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., and the commercial will not run on networks that focus on programming oriented toward children. Mason Tvert, a spokesperson for the legalization organization Marijuana Policy Project, guessed that the medical marijuana ad would be shown between ads for beer. Tvert pointed out that the marijuana ad differs from beer ads in that it does not objectify women. If the largest mass media and communications company in the world detected nothing fishy about advertising for medical marijuana on their network, one can only assume that all the small fry networks will soon follow.
By Donna Westlund