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CBS Won't Air What Would Have Been the First-Ever Super Bowl PSA for Cannabis

Acreage Holdings sought to highlight the benefits of medical cannabis and restrictions millions of Americans face when they need it.


Medical cannabis is not ready for prime time, at least so far as CBS is concerned.


Acreage Holdings, one of the largest publicly traded cannabis companies, revealed that CBS has turned down its request to air a public service announcement about medical cannabis during the upcoming Super Bowl. The ad, which Acreage plans to release publicly when the final version is complete, will feature vignettes about three people suffering severe medical problems who found relief using cannabis.

"We thought this message was strong enough and important enough that we wanted to share it on the world's biggest stage, which is the Super Bowl, but we received a terse note saying they will not air a medical cannabis ad,'' said Harris Damashek, chief marketing officer for Acreage.

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A preliminary version of the 60-second ad features a boy suffering a nearly uninterrupted series of seizures -- numbering in the dozens each day -- whose mother credits medical marijuana for saving his life. A man who was reliant on opioids for 15 years to cope with the pain of broken back credits medical marijuana for giving him pain relief without opioids, while a veteran who lost a leg during his service similarly credits medical cannabis for granting him relief from chronic, excruciating pain.

The ad concludes by encouraging viewers to contact their congressional representatives to demand legal access to medical cannabis, which is legal in more than 30 states but with varying restrictions. It didn't recommend or even mention Acreage products.

Super Bowl ads cost around $5 million for a 30-second spot, which Damashek said Acreage was ready to pay.

Damashek said the company is not particularly upset, or even surprised, by the rejection from CBS, which they attribute more to the marijuana's uncertain legal status between the laws of the 50 states -- most but not all of which make it legal to some degree -- and the federal government, which has not changed the legal status of marijuana since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

"It's emblematic of the problem we are trying to highlight, which is that Americans often cannot get access to medical cannabis," Damashek said. "It is such a gray area and such conflict between state policy and federal policy that nobody knows what the risks (for CBS) might be."

Related: Facebook Has 'Shadow Banned' Marijuana Businesses

CBS had no immediate comment on the decision. Acreage was told the ad was rejected in a brief email that offered no elaboration. Damashek said Acreage will complete production of the full commercial and make it public on whatever channels it has available. All sorts of cannabis advertising is restricted on all the major online channels, as well as TV and radio.

"There is so much hypocrisy that surrounds this issue,'' Damashek said. "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.''