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TV spots pitch medical marijuana

12:47 AM, Mar 5, 2014   |    comments
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Story written by Rick Hampson, USA Today

(USA Today)-- Late-night TV, which has enticed us with hard-sell offers for the amazing Ginsu knife and equally incredible hair loss remedies, now has another offer some can't refuse: a way to get medical marijuana.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, has agreed to run an ad on its local cable systems in New Jersey, Massachusetts and greater Chicago that promote a service that links people seeking legal medical marijuana with doctors able to prescribe it.

See also: DC voted to decriminalize marijuana

The campaign is one of the first examples - possibly the first - of commercial broadcast advertising related to marijuana. The ads begin airing this month in New Jersey and will start next month in the other media markets.

Melissa Kennedy, a Comcast spokeswoman, said she knew of no other such televised ad campaign. Although Colorado has legalized pot for recreational use, state law restricts retail advertising, and advocates on both sides of the issue said they'd seen nothing like the Comcast spots.

The satiric ads for MarijuanaDoctors.com begin with a street dealer pushing sushi of dubious provenance.

"Yo, you want sushi? I got sushi. I got the best sushi,'' the shady-looking man tells the camera. "You need me and I need you. Let's make this work.''

Eventually a female narrator's sober voice-over intrudes on his guttural monologue: "You wouldn't buy your sushi from this guy, so why would you buy your marijuana from him?"

The narrator then suggests an alternative - "the only website that links patients with real doctors" approved to prescribe medical marijuana.

The narration concludes: "Book your appointment today!''

Kennedy said Comcast lawyers cleared the the ads because medical marijuana is legal where they are viewed. "We are always cautious when we take ads like this,'' she said. She also noted that the company already takes ads for alcoholic beverages.

She said the ads will air only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not appear on networks for children such as Disney or Nickelodeon. They will appear on the likes of CNN, History and Comedy Central.

In New Jersey the spots will air 800 times over two weeks, according to Jason Draizin, CEO of MarijuanaDoctors.com.

See a MarijuanaDoctors.com ad from YouTube below

He said his company makes money by charging doctors to belong to the referral network. He said more than 300 doctors and 500 clinics in 20 states are members, and that 93,000 patients nationwide used the service last year.

Comcast's move was decried by Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group: "Sadly, It's one more example of the commercialization and normalization of marijuana," Sabet said.

He said the spots are directed at people "staying up late who want to get stoned, and now they can claim a medical excuse. ... This is capitalism at its worst. Comcast is choosing profits over public health.'' He said efforts to keep legalized or medical marijuana away from children were doomed.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project , which supports legalization, disagreed: "It's a website providing a legal service. There's no reason why it should not be treated like any other one. It'll probably be shown between beer ads, but at least it won't objectify women and suggest that drinking beer is the only way to have fun.''

Contributing: Dustin Racioppi, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

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