Managing Editor/Music Editor
Most of the world has been ready for marijuana for decades, but the Super Bowl is not.
Today, more U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana than have not, according to Forbes. However, a 30-second marijuana advertisement proposed for Super Bowl LIII was rejected by CBS.
Rejection of the ad is a missed opportunity for the discussion of legalization.
The ad does not promote a specific marijuana product or brand. Instead, it advocates for the drug’s medicinal uses. A spokesperson for CBS told USA Today its broadcasting standards prevent it from accepting cannabis-related advertising.
The ad was produced by Acreage Holdings, a medical marijuana company, whose board of directors includes John Boehner, former Republican Speaker of the House.
The ad features three individuals who say medical marijuana has changed their lives for the better – a mother whose son suffers from seizures, a longtime user of opioids who sustained a back injury 15 years ago and a military veteran and amputee.
Generally, Super Bowl ads are meant to be funny or inspiring. Heavy subject matter seems to only be acceptable in these $5 million commercial spots if the message is patriotic, such as in Budweiser’s Sept. 11 tribute ad, which aired during the 2002 Super Bowl.
While the veteran in the rejected ad touches on this sentiment, George Allen, president of Acreage, said he is not surprised by CBS’s decision, according to USA Today. “Still, we developed the ad in the spirit of a public service announcement,” Allen said to CNN Business. “We feel it’s our responsibility to advocate on behalf of our patients.”
CBS’s reasoning for rejecting the ad is legitimate. Rules are rules. But even if the ad had been accepted, it likely would not have had the impact Acreage hoped for. This is because the fight for medical marijuana is a little outdated.
Plenty of people claim to benefit from marijuana’s medicinal uses, including, ironically, NFL players who use it to combat trauma from years of the sport, according to The Washington Post.
Similarly, people claimed to medically benefit from alcohol during the U.S. prohibition era. A Smithsonian report showed doctors wrote medicinal alcohol prescriptions for people with conditions ranging from depression to cancer.
However, today’s fight for marijuana is broader. The focus has shifted toward legalization across the board. Most of the significant marijuana legislation introduced this year had to do with recreational use, according to Forbes.
The producers of the ad did not pick the right fight, but it could have still been successful in other ways. For more conservative, traditional viewers of the Super Bowl, the ad could have painted a more digestible image of marijuana, which could at least provoke a conversation about letting up on the government’s long-standing federal prohibition of the drug.
Unfortunately, by the time stations such as CBS are allowed to take money from the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry, the fight for legalization will likely be over. By that time, marijuana ads featured during the Super Bowl will be like all the others – larger than life, pushing the sale of the latest strains or marijuana consumption accessories.
In the meantime, companies like Acreage should continue to push the envelope and try to seal the deal on primetime ad spots during the Super Bowl and other major television events because even their rejection adds to the growing dialogue about marijuana legalization.