CBS Television Network refused to run an advertisement for medical cannabis (CBD) during their broadcast of the 2019 Super Bowl, despite the product’s growing legality and overwhelming acceptance among Americans. Acreage Holdings, a US cannabis company, offered over $5 million to the broadcasting company to play their thirty-second video advertising the benefits of medical cannabis and full legalization.
The Super Bowl captivates an audience of hundreds of millions across the nation every year. Companies pay broadcasting companies millions of dollars to advertise during the event, famous for its high budget commercials and elaborate marketing campaigns. Advertising spots on Super Bowl broadcasting networks such CBS are well sought after, which is no surprise since they reached over 100.7 million viewers across their platforms during the 2019 event. Despite being offered over five million dollars, CBS refused to run a thirty-second ad for CBD (Cannabidiol) by company Acreage Holdings. The short inspiring video was designed to show the benefits of medical cannabis and how it can improve ordinary people’s lives, rather than to sell the company’s products. The ad included the story of a child whose seizures could not be helped by prescription drugs and a call to political action so that people like him can have access to the much-needed benefits of CBD. It would have been a great opportunity to support a medical product which has the possibility to change lives but was not accepted by the company. CBS is yet to comment publicly on the rejection, only stating in their response to Acreage Holdings that it is against their company policy to advertise “cannabis-related” products.
In 2019, cannabis is becoming increasingly popular for its medical benefits, as more products containing hemp and CBD are more and more legal and available. Acreage Holdings, based in Canada and operating across eleven states, is one company at the forefront of this growing industry. Far from the feared image of the addicted, lazy drug addict, the company shows the scientific, clean and medical side of cannabis. A longer version of the ad rejected by CBS was posted to their website and is nothing short of inspiring. It features people talking about the benefits of CBD and the company’s plans for the future in this growing industry. They have a vision of legalization and firmly believe that marijuana is the future of America. They want to bring safe cannabis products to US citizens who need them, stating on their website “Leading the way to safe, affordable cannabis for everyone”. Along with other public figures, House Speaker John Boehner has been added to the board of the company, showing his support of medical marijuana. He spoke publicly on twitter saying, “I’m joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved. I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”
The recent Farm Bill removed Hemp (low THC cannabis), from the Schedule I Controlled Substances list, making it completely legal in the United States, including products containing CBD. Medicinal use of all cannabis is currently legal in thirty-three states and completely decriminalized for recreational purposes in thirteen. Over 85% of Americans support the federal legalization of medicinal cannabis and two-thirds of the population approving of recreational use. The use of cannabis products is becoming more accepted and legalization is heading in a clear direction.
NFL player Chris Long responded to the CBS situation on Twitter, criticizing the hypocrisy of the network for broadcasting numerous ads for alcohol, which is legal but potentially dangerous and an addictive substance accepted by the mainstream media. He sarcastically tweeted, “Keep pumping the booze ads, guys. You’re doing great!”. This sparked a discussion in the sports world on Twitter, revealing public positions on the current movement toward legalization. In the past decade, there have been debates about the harm of alcohol in comparison with cannabis, with common arguments citing alcohol-related violence and addiction, liver disease and even death within hours of binge-drinking. The same cannot be said of marijuana, which isn’t fatal, even with large levels of consumption. A lot of fears about potential harms of cannabis have now been debunked, while many of the benefits remain proven true.
CBD may have been left out of television broadcasting in the 2019 Super Bowl, but company Barista EnrichaRoast successfully advertised their CBD coffee products on digital screens and mobile devices. The company even managed to secure advertisement on a portal leading to headlining act Maroon 5. This is the first advertisement of cannabis at the Super Bowl, and despite being a win for the cannabis industry, it wasn’t easy. Barry Henthorn, the CEO, commented to Forbes that online stores like Amazon, eBay and Overstock will not sell products labeled ‘CBD’, only ‘hemp’ and that it’s difficult to advertise CBD in mainstream media. Their usual media company Reel Time Media would not place the ads, so they worked with Canna Broadcast Media instead.
Cannabis is undeniably a fast-growing industry in the US, with many new public supporters and companies appearing. The medical benefits have been proven and legality is increasing. It won’t be long before we see CBD products advertised in the mainstream media, as companies are determined to advance the industry.