When it comes to advertising, there are a lot of limitations for marijuana businesses. Some marijuana business models are specifically prohibited from advertising in some areas. In other areas where advertising is allowed, marijuana businesses still find it difficult to advertise on mainstream media outlets who almost always discriminate against marijuana businesses. Mainstream media is not as harsh as it used to be from a coverage perspective, but it's a completely different story when it comes to advertising.
The most recent example came with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference (OMMBC). The OMMBC purchased advertising time on a Portland media outlet called KATU. The news outlet was supposed to air the following 30 second video:
After it appeared that the ad was going to run, KATU pulled the plug on the video. Per Marijuana Politics:
Well, that didn't take long. After news hit that a commercial for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference (OMMBC) was going to be the first ever marijuana commercial aired during the network news in Portland, Oregon, ABC affiliate KATU decided to flip-flop and prohibit the ad. A KATU Senior Account Executive emailed OMMBC producer Alex Rogers at 10:20am Tuesday morning, stating that the ad was good to go. At 1:59pm, Rogers got another email from the executive, stating, "Loved your press release, very cool being part of history. Bring it on!!!" Unfortunately, higher ups in the network weren't as excited about being on the right side of history.
"At 3:45pm, my ad rep called me in a frantic state, saying that 'something was going on' and that 'General Manager John Tamerlano needed to speak with me as soon as possible,'" Rogers told me. "I ended up speaking with Mr. Tamerlano about 30 minutes later and he told me that he had 'no problem with the ad for the conference' and that he was 'happy to OK it' but since the ad was getting media attention as the "first marijuana commercial" on Portland network news, he was 'going to pull it.'"
KATU's excuse was weak at best. Per Willamette Week:
"After further review, we have decided to step back," said Tamerlano. "We don't accept advertising for marijuana."
Tamerlano clarified that network officials were aware of the content of the ad when they agreed to air it, but decided that it was acceptable strictly as a business commercial. When it became clear earlier today that other media sources were reporting it as the first-ever marijuana commercial, KATU reversed course.
When asked why KATU continues to reject marijuana ads despite legalization in Oregon, Tamerlano said the law was changed very recently, and cited the continuing prohibition of marijuana at the federal level.
Everyday there are commercials for alcohol, even though alcohol kills people every year. The same goes for pharmaceutical drugs. But when it comes to cannabis, a substance that is now legal in Oregon, executives get in a frenzy. It's extra messed up that they were OK with it at first, and were going to run the ad, but because it was getting press (positive press I might add) they couldn't handle the pressure and folded in favor of prohibition. Cannabis businesses are just as legit as any other business, especially a business conference. Cannabis may be federally illegal to possess, cultivate, distribute, etc., but it's not illegal to talk about.
I'd like to see as many people attend the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference as possible to show mainstream media outlets that the cannabis industry is here to stay, is bigger than they think, and is getting bigger everyday. In the not so distant future Oregon's cannabis industry is going to dwarf most of the other industries that are giving these media outlets their advertising dollars right now. They are burning the bridge before it's even fully built, which is something that I hope cannabis businesses remember in the future.
The Weed Blog will be attending the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, which takes place at the Portland Hilton on September 12-13. Tickets are available, and we hope to see you there. If you are serious about networking and learning how to succeed in the cannabis industry, this event is going to be a must. That's especially true considering that it's just a couple of weeks-ish before recreational sales begin at Oregon dispensaries on October 1st. Click on the banner below to find out more and get your tickets: