A Super Bowl ad for medical marijuana was rejected by CBS this week. The ad itself wasn’t necessarily selling medical marijuana — but asking Americans to push for the legalization of cannabis for medical reasons.

This rejection has created an uproar in the media.

Esquire ran an article with the headline, “CBS Refused to Air a Medical Marijuana Ad During the Super Bowl” and the tagline “But soda, beer, and fast food remain totally fine.” The Green Entrepreneur claimed that “CBS and the NFL lag far behind the American public on the subject of medical marijuana.”

One Ad That Banned Them All

The ad in question is this 60-second ad highlighting three medical marijuana patients and the benefit each patient receives from the drug. The ad was produced by Acreage Holdings, a cannabis cultivation company. The company oversees the processing and distribution of cannabis for medical purposes.

USA Today reported that:

“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.”

In other words, CBS turned down over $10.4 million in revenue for just one ad.

Was Acreage expecting to actually shell out that much green on a Super Bowl ad? Did they think that CBS would be willing to air such an ad?

Acreage president George Allen thinks not. He told USA Today:

“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.”

The Reason Behind the Ban

CBS released a statement claiming that their policies do not allow them to approve ads for medical marijuana — even though medical marijuana is legal in over 30 states.

Acreage claims that the ad wasn’t really an ad — and instead was more of a public service announcement.

In the ad, the three main characters are a mother of a child with epilepsy, a vet with a missing limb and a man who suffered from opioid addiction. All three of the people featured described how medical marijuana ended their suffering (and in some ways saved their lives).

Banned Ads: Justified or Hypocritical?

While it seems that both CBS and NFL execs feel completely justified by this decision, many news outlets have cried hypocrisy.

New York Magazine brought up the great point that the NFL shouldn’t be the ones throwing stones. Especially considering that medical marijuana is one of the drugs used to ease the traumatic brain and skull injuries caused by — well, playing football. (The article does mention that current NFL players can’t use medical marijuana as it is banned by the NFL.)

Doesn’t it feel like there’s always drama surrounding the Super Bowl? First the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake debacle, then Deflategate and then another Justin Timberlake debacle and now this?

Where Does That Leave Cannabis?

Well, out of the 2019 Super Bowl at least.

Though cannabis’s slightly more widely accepted cousin CBD will get a spot in Super Bowl Stadium on the big night. Spectators will be able to view ads for CBD coffee, courtesy of Baristas Coffee Company.

Baristas Coffee’s CEO, Barry Henthorn did tell Forbes, “It’s difficult getting CBD products in mainstream media, Henthorn said, noting sites like Amazon, Overstock and eBay will only sell products labeled as ‘hemp,’ not ‘CBD.’”

Yet, even though CBD is a relatively new player to the mainstream cannabis culture, it was easier getting an ad for it in the Super Bowl than medical marijuana — a substance long considered by the general public as socially acceptable.

So, how long until we can expect to see medical marijuana making its way into mainstream media? It depends on a lot of factors. As the general public is becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of the legalization of cannabis, the easier it will probably get.

Business Insider reported in 2017, “More than half of Americans think marijuana use is ‘socially acceptable.’”

Acreage president George Allen told USA Today, “Look, from my third-grade government class, we live in a representative democracy,” Allen said. “In theory, our elected officials are supposed to support legislative action that is in keeping with the will of the people.”

The true indicator will quite possibly be when other mainstream outlets begin jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. Until then, Super Bowl fans will just need to get their PSAs from YouTube.

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