Marijuana commercial unfairly criticized

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As seen in the March 28 print edition 

Dani Klemes, web editor-in-chief

 A marijuana commercial that recently aired in New Jersey sparked a controversy among cable watchers. The commercial, which advertises MarijuanaDoctors.com and its medical marijuana services, is set to air on select Comcast cable stations including Fox, ESPN and CNN between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The minute-long advertisement features a suspicious-looking man selling second-rate sushi, setting up a comparison between medical drug acquisition and shady alley deals. A voice in the commercial asks “You wouldn’t buy sushi from this guy, so why would you buy your marijuana from him?”

The ad’s purpose is to advise legal drug users to be wary of how they obtain their weed and to emphasize the importance of receiving marijuana from a licensed physician.

In no way is the advertisement encouraging marijuana use as a recreational activity. The use and distribution of marijuana, whether it be for legal, medical purposes or recreational intent, is inevitable. There is no certainty that people will adhere to laws regarding the drug, and therefore, the existence of a black market is definite. Which is why Jason Draizin, the CEO of MarijuanaDoctors.com, chose to commercialize his legal doctor-patient online portal.

In an interview with New York Daily News, Draizin stated that “it would be absurd to purchase [marijuana] on the black market without consulting a physician, especially if you have a terminal or debilitating disease.”

The commercial is an advertisement for legal drug use. Marijuana is legal for medical purposes in 20 states and Washington, D.C., so there is no valid reason why it shouldn’t be treated as another prescription drug. It’s even a bit ironic that people are so fervently against the marijuana commercial considering the fact that they’re comfortable with the endorsement of other prescription drugs, many of which are abused.

A lot of the buzz came from apprehensive viewers who were worried about the commercial’s effect on young, impressionable audiences. Their reasoning seems a bit irrational seeing that the commercial’s airtime is past the bedtimes of most minors.

The commercial is promoting safety. It is encouraging smart choices. Draizin’s intent was not to target stoners looking for an easier access to drugs, but rather to display the legally sound options that medical users have available to them.

Draizin’s site operates as an interceder that pairs users with prescribers. The company screens both patients and doctors before they can utilize the service and informs users of their legal rights in the states that allow medical marijuana use. MarijuanaDoctors.com is, essentially, an Internet-based dispensary and, like any other brick-and-mortar dispensary (that is practicing under a license), there is a strict security protocol.

Although Comcast has agreed to air the commercial, sites including Google and Facebook have refused to run the advertisements of the for-profit company.

Google’s advertising rules include a ban on “the promotion of illegal drugs, legal or synthetic highs, herbal drugs and chemicals and compounds with psychoactive effects.”

Likewise, according to Facebook spokesman Tim Rathschmidt in an interview with GigaOM, the risk of altering the current policies “to allow ads promoting [marijuana] in certain states or countries where it is legal is too high for [Facebook] to consider at this time.”

Most of the controversy surrounding the commercial is based on the style of the advertisement. It may have been a shock for some viewers to see marijuana, the drug that has been “demonized by our government for decades,”* tossed around so casually. But like anything that has been frowned upon in the past, we must accept it.

As with any contentious issue, there is discomfort and insecurity and stubbornness. Marijuana commercialization may be a difficult thing to embrace. It may trigger “a knee-jerk negative reaction.”* But at one point, someone is going to have to take the high road.

*These quotes are from Mason Tvert, the communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in his interview with Time.com

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