By Pat Anson, PNN Editor
The hype over Super Bowl LIII between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots took a back seat this week to a debate over the benefits of medical marijuana.
The February 3 game is being broadcast by CBS, which rejected a 30-second Super Bowl ad by Acreage Holdings -- the cannabis company that recently hired former House speaker John Boehner as a spokesman. Along with the other broadcast networks, CBS currently does not accept any cannabis related advertising.
The Acreage ad features 3 cannabis users -- a boy who suffers from epilepsy, a man who took opioid medication for 15 years for back pain, and a military veteran who suffers from phantom limb pain after losing a leg in the service. The ad doesn’t promote Acreage products, but urges viewers to call their congressional representatives and advocate for medical marijuana.
“We’re disappointed by the news but somewhat unsurprised,” Acreage President George Allen told CNN Business. “Still, we developed the ad in the spirit of a public service announcement. We feel it’s our responsibility to advocate on behalf of our patients.”
The chief marketing officer for Acreage was less diplomatic.
“You will see countless ads (during the Super Bowl) for beer and erectile dysfunction medications but our ad with an educational goal to help people who are suffering is rejected. That is the irony we are looking to highlight,” Harris Damashek told the Green Entrepreneur.
A 30-second ad during the Super Bowl would have cost Acreage over $5 million, but the company is getting a lot of free publicity over the controversy. A 60-second version of the ad was posted on YouTube.
Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and Washington DC, but remains illegal under federal law. Although cannabis is a banned substance in the NFL, many current and former players use it for pain relief.
“When you compare it to what the alternative is in their training rooms; pills, pills, pills, that are being put into these guys’ hands and turning them into addicts,” former NFL player Nate Jackson told PNN. “I was never big on those pills. I medicated with marijuana and it helped me and I think it helped save my brain.”
Although the NFL has a reputation as a league that closely monitors and disciplines players for illegal drug use, Jackson estimates over half its players currently use marijuana to relieve pain and stress after games.