Burning question: medical-marijuana ads

Jeff vonKaenel

You may have noticed that the Sacramento News & Review is running several pages of medical-marijuana advertising each week. Sacramento Magazine publisher Mike O’Brien has also noticed. In a recent column, he asked his readers, “Should we advertise pot?” Mike wrote that he is concerned about marijuana use because of fears that it might impair users, just as alcohol does. He wrote that he is opposed to legalization because he has concerns about pot and alcohol use leading to other, more dangerous drugs. On the other hand, he spoke to a cancer patient who reported it gave her relief from nausea and improved her chemo-impaired appetite. In the end, after gathering input, he decided that his magazine will not accept medical-pot ads.

In his column, Mike wrote that many of the SN&R medical-marijuana ads remind him of rock-concert ads he saw while attending UC Berkeley in the 1970s. Mike, I resent that. Our award-winning design team creates way cooler ads than the typical ’70s rock concert ever had. And I think you’d have to agree that the negative social effects of alcohol use far surpass the damage done by marijuana. Perhaps Sacramento Magazine should also give up beer-and-wine advertising. We’d be happy to take over your bar-and-club ads.

After Mike’s column ran, KCRA TV heavyweight Walt Gray came by our new office. He interviewed both Mike and me for a story about medical-marijuana advertising. He presented a very fair story, and I like and respect both Mike and Walt. That said, Walt cut out some of my best comments, e.g., that I don’t see how the News & Review running medical-marijuana ads is any different from TV stations running massive amounts of commercials for pharmaceutical companies selling drugs. Frankly, many of those pharmaceutical products have less proven medical benefit than marijuana, and their overuse is partly responsible for our country’s growing health-care costs.

Walt also mentioned that KCRA does not run ads for escorts. While that is true, they certainly run enough ads for politicians trying to escort themselves into office. These millions of dollars worth of TV political advertising distort our political process. These ads often contain untruths and exaggerations, and the TV news shows do nothing to correct the wrong impressions left by these ads that run throughout the political season. Does anyone believe that escort advertising is a bigger problem for our society than TV political advertising?

On Mike’s website, he asked his magazine readers if he should take medical-marijuana ads. I voted “no.” I hope that next month, Mike runs a survey asking his readers if he should accept ads from bars and clubs. I’ll be happy to vote “no” on that survey as well.

Meanwhile, I am hoping that we come to our senses and legalize marijuana. While it might be bad for our business, it’s the only sane thing to do.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.