News & Politics

CBS Rejects Super Bowl Commercial Promoting Medical Marijuana

My opposition to the recreational use of marijuana is well-documented (here and here). That being noted, my feelings about the medicinal use of marijuana are a little more complicated. Having only waded through a few of the many peer-reviewed studies on the subject, I tend to support the medical use of marijuana but am not 100 percent convinced. However, that’s not why I find it odd that CBS is preventing a pro-medical marijuana commercial from airing during the Super Bowl. Considering past Super Bowl commercials, rejecting a pro-medical marijuana ad seems like a strange line to draw in the sand.

The ad in question was submitted by Acreage Holdings, a finance and investment company focused on the burgeoning marijuana industry. Although it never got past the proposal stage, the commercial would have touted the benefits of medical marijuana while calling for its nationwide legalization. While medicinal marijuana is now legal in thirty states, the federal government’s prohibition undercuts research and hinders patients’ access to the drug. Acreage Holdings was hoping to use the proposed commercial to jumpstart an advocacy campaign.

Speaking to Bloomberg via phone, Acreage Holdings President George Allen expressed his disappointment with CBS’s decision. Noting the impact of Super Bowl commercials on public discourse, Allen admitted, “It’s hard to compete with the amount of attention something gets when it airs during the Super Bowl.”

Regardless of what you believe about medical marijuana, we can all agree that a cultural event known for airing commercials that objectify women, promote fast food, and shill for liquor companies is on shaky moral ground. Not to mention the over-sexualized and raunchy halftime shows that have been known to promote the LGBTQ agenda. Going a step further, an argument could be made that soft drink addiction wreaks more havoc on society than stomach cancer patients firing up joints to help them have an appetite. No doubt, CBS is busy happily cashing checks from the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi for the commercials that will air during this Sunday’s Super Bowl. Mentioning a better parallel for the pro-medical marijuana ad, the NFL and the networks that air football games (including the Super Bowl) are in bed with Big Pharma.

In 2016, a commercial paid for by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo (two names that are probably familiar to you if you watch football) sparked outrage from those who believed the ad encouraged opioid addiction. The offending commercial was for a drug called Movantik that helps those who have opioid-induced constipation. After the commercial aired, President Obama’s chief of staff tweeted, “Next year, how about fewer ads that fuel opioid addiction and more on access to treatment.”

Ironically, many advocates for the medicinal use of marijuana point out that its legalization will help battle opioid addiction. It’s frequently touted as a much safer option for pain relief than the opioids routinely prescribed by doctors. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “legally protected marijuana dispensaries (LMDs) were associated with lower rates of dependence on prescription opioids, and deaths due to opioid overdose.”

I, for one, despise the Super Bowl commercials (and the halftime show). As a lover of football, it irritates me that many of the people sitting on the couch and chairs around me talk during the game and shut up for the commercials and half-time show. However, if, unlike me, you enjoy the Super Bowl commercials, then watch and count how many products are promoted during the game that are arguably more harmful for individuals and society than medical marijuana. CBS and the NFL’s moral preening by preventing Acreage Holdings’ commercial is hypocritical.