Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Are there any prop bets on when we might see a marijuana ad during a Super Bowl broadcast?

ImagesThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this USA Today story headlined "CBS rejects Super Bowl ad on benefits of medical marijuana."   (And if you do not know what prop bets are, here is a primer: "Prop bets popular for Super Bowl, but NFL wants them gone.")  Here are excepts from the ad story:

CBS rejected a Super Bowl ad that makes a case for medical marijuana. Acreage Holdings, which is in the cannabis cultivation, processing and dispensing business, said it produced a 60-second ad that shows three people suffering from varying health issues who say their lives were made better by use of medical marijuana.

Acreage said its ad agency sent storyboards for the ad to the network and received a return email that said: “CBS will not be accepting any ads for medical marijuana at this time.”

A CBS spokesperson told USA TODAY Sports that under CBS broadcast standards it does not currently accept cannabis-related advertising....

“We’re not particularly surprised that CBS and/or the NFL rejected the content,” Acreage president George Allen said. “And that is actually less a statement about them and more we think a statement about where we stand right now in this country.”...

“One of the hardest parts about this business is the ambiguity that we operate within,” Allen said. “We do the best we can to navigate a complex fabric of state and federal policy, much of which conflicts.”

Allen said the company had not decided whether to run its 60-second ad or a 30-second version when it learned that CBS would not accept any ads for medical marijuana. CBS is charging an average of $5.2 million for a 30-second ad in this year's game between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots on Feb. 3.

“It’s a public service announcement really more than it is an advertisement,” said Harris Damashek, Acreage’s chief marketing officer. “We’re not marketing any of our products or retail in this spot.”

An unfinished version of the 60-second ad introduces a Colorado boy who suffers from Dravet syndrome; his mother says her son would have dozens to hundreds of seizures a day and medical marijuana saved his life.  A Buffalo man says he was on opioids for 15 years after three back surgeries and that medical marijuana gave him his life back. An Oakland man who lost part of his leg in military service says his pain was unbearable until medical marijuana.

“The time is now,” say words on the screen near the end of the ad.  Then the screen shifts and viewers are asked to call on their representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to advocate for change.  Fine print at the bottom says the testimonials in the ad come from the experiences of the individuals and have not been evaluated by the FDA. The fine print also says marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance and medical use has not been approved in some states....

Acreage expects to post the ad online at some point so people can see it, even if they can’t see it on the Super Bowl. “It’s not quite ready yet,” Damashek said, “but we anticipate and look forward to getting the message out far and wide.”

I have to admit to being a bit suspect of the idea that the Acreage folks were really planning to spend $10 million to run "a public service announcement" during SuperBowl LIII.   Dare I speculate that they knew full well that their ad would be rejected, but also knew that simply asking and getting rejected would result in beneficial attention.  And I suppose I am now guilty of giving them some of this desired attention (but I am at least asking a fun question along the way).

Speaking of that question, I will answer by foolishly predicting that there will be a marijuana ad during Super Bowl LVI in February 2022.   

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2019/01/are-there-any-prop-bets-on-when-we-might-see-a-marijuana-ad-during-a-super-bowl-broadcast.html

Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink

Comments

I'll make that bet with you. I don't think we will see an ad until 2030 at the earliest!

Posted by: Jared Kriwinsky | Jan 24, 2019 9:34:50 AM

I agree with Jared that it will be a long time until a cannabis company airs a commercial during the Super Bowl. While the support of legalizing marijuana is increasing in the United States, the Super Bowl is still watched by many older conservatives who likely oppose legalization of marijuana. Many of these same people threatened to stop watching the NFL altogether when players such as Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem. I think NBC and the NFL realize that they need this conservative older demographic for ratings and thus won't air any controversial commercials. (People can be easily offended.) Additionally, for many people, the Super Bowl has become a family event with many children watching. Because of the wide-ranging audience, the Super Bowl really is not the best target audience for a cannabis company. Until marijuana is widely accepted and/or legalized at a federal level, I don't think a marijuana ad will air during the Super Bowl. However, I agree with your analysis that Acreage Farms accomplished its goal with its rejected ad: publicity.

Posted by: Jack Meadows | Jan 31, 2019 10:29:33 AM

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