Posts Tagged ‘green cross’
Ads for pot face fewer regulations than ads for cigarettes and booze
Medical marijuana advertising is taking off, propping up the fortunes of ailing media companies that have seen income from other business sectors plummet in the recession.
Advertisements offering free edibles for new patients and products such as “super silver haze” are helping to keep the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly and East Bay Express in business. Similar ads have even started cropping up — tentatively — in more staid publications, such as the San Francisco Chronicle.
Ads for pot are growing so fast in part because they face fewer regulations and restrictions than marketing materials for cigarettes and alcohol. The only real regulation is one requiring the ads to warn customers that they need a doctor’s recommendation.
“Marijuana advertising is a small percentage of our total advertising — we wish that we had more,” said Mina Bajraktarevic, advertising sales manager at the Bay Guardian, whose back page has become a wall of green with medical marijuana advertising.
“We’ve been involved in this for years,” said Bruce Brugmann, publisher of the Bay Guardian. “We haven’t heard any complaints.”
Not all media companies are comfortable with pot ads, and some have equivocated about whether to accept them. Some advertisers were waiting to see the outcome of the vote Nov. 2 on Proposition 19, the state pot legalization bill, before agreeing to take money from the burgeoning industry.
Ten years ago most medical cannabis clubs were intentionally low-key and relied only on word of mouth. Being illegal, they were inconsistently tolerated by the authorities.
Now, with rapidly liberalized enforcement policies, the most successful medical cannabis businesses are the ones that get their brand name out to the public. Dozens of the businesses are racing to capture the pot-smoking community’s mindshare, and are pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into local media this year to do so.
“We probably spend around $2,500 to $3,000 a month on advertising,” said Kevin Reed, president of the Green Cross, a medical cannabis dispensary on Market Street between Eighth and Ninth streets. “We’re in a world where you’re competing with all these fly-by-night businesses who don’t have to follow the rules — they’re not regulated.” Until recently, more than half a dozen dispensaries had failed to register their businesses with the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
One of the pioneers of pot advertising was KUSF Radio. Four years ago, the station, run by the University of San Francisco, had a Green Cross-underwritten public-service announcement that ran on 90.3 FM.
But sometimes it’s hard for pot clubs to buy ads; several have lined up ad agreements only to have them retroactively rejected.
In May, Facebook canceled the Green Cross’ existing advertisements on the site. MediCann, a group of clinics specializing in medical marijuana evaluations, also had its Facebook ads snuffed.
In August, the Green Cross paid in full for a slot on a huge electronic billboard on Interstate 280 at the Serramonte Shopping Center in Daly City — only to see it taken down a day later.
The circumstances surrounding that reversal were not quite clear. SF Weekly ran a blog post suggesting the ad was taken down because its content was objectionable. But a spokeswoman for the mall, Cherie Napier, said that the real reason was that the billboard was only permitted to run ads for products or services sold at the mall. The marijuana ad, she said in an e-mail, “would have been a violation and could have resulted in a $10,000 fine from the state.”
Aside from the weeklies, the medical pot business supports a whole genre of “cannabis friendly” magazines, such as West Coast Leaf and Kush.
“We don’t do general newspapers or anything like that,” said Adrian Moore, director of operations at 7 Stars Holistic Healing Center in Richmond.
Bigger news outlets don’t appear ready to take advertisements for marijuana, at least not yet.
To what extent can marijuana be advertised? Kris Hermes, executive director of the Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, called advertising for the drug a First Amendment issue.
“Our rough position is that we’re in favor of patients finding out how to access medical marijuana,” Hermes said. “We encourage local governments to figure out ways of allowing advertisements that aren’t counterproductive to [get to] the members of the community.”
Proposed Tracking Program Has SF Medical Marijuana Growers In Fear Feds Or Criminals Could Obtain Addresses
San Francisco officials want to keep a record of all suppliers of medical marijuana dispensaries, an idea that has some members of the pot community fuming.
“If there is a list, it’s available to the public, and it’s available to the feds,” said Kevin Reed, a member of The City’s Medical Cannabis Task Force and owner of the Green Cross, a medical cannabis delivery service.
Reed said most members of cannabis collectives and cooperatives grow small amounts of pot in their homes, warning that a city record of their names and addresses could be accessible by anyone — including federal law enforcement officials or criminals who rob grow operations.
Despite statements by the Obama administration that it would not go after medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state laws, cannabis supporters say such raids have continued, and Reed remained wary about a public record of growers.
“It just goes against everything that we’re doing,” Reed said. “What we do is federally illegal. As long as The City is offering patients no protection, it’s just absurd.”
According to a written statement from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, officials announced at a May 20 task force meeting that they “anticipated maintaining a record of all sources/cultivators for each [dispensary].”
Public health officials would only answer questions about this proposal in writing, and a spokeswoman did not respond to a question about whether the list would be publicly available.
The statement noted that the department, which issues permits for medical cannabis dispensaries, is tasked with ensuring that the cannabis such dispensaries cultivate and distribute is in compliance with state and local laws.
There currently are 26 permitted dispensaries in The City, and nine more have applied for permits.
Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, the director of environmental health, said such dispensaries get their products from “diverse sources” and that the department needs to ensure those sources are legal. California law requires that marijuana distributed by medical cannabis collectives or co-operatives be cultivated only by their members, and not for profit.
“Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of cultivation in many San Francisco neighborhoods,” Bhatia said. Some of these sites violate city planning and building codes, and create fire or hazardous materials dangers, according to his statement.
“The department’s overarching aim is to steer [medical cannabis dispensary] practices towards conformity with California and San Francisco law,” Bhatia said. “In this way, we reduced the likelihood for MCDs of community concerns and criminal prosecution.”
The idea is apparently just in its formative stages, however, and no decision has been made.
“We are open to alternative ways to ensure the safety and legality of cultivation,” Bhatia said. “We will be discussing this with the dispensary community.”
Community activist and task force member Stephanie Tucker called a public list “a deal-breaker.”
“DPH historically has always been very good at protecting safe access, and balancing that with public safety,” Tucker said. “Obviously, as a community, we have concerns about that information becoming public.
“We need to find a solution, a happy medium.”
|Photo: Luke Thomas/The Green Cross|
|Kevin Reed: “It’s unacceptable. It would be a disaster.”|