Higher Ground: The Weed Wire

A pot ad ran on TV—almost.

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME
The first-ever recreational-marijuana ad for television was supposed to air last month during Jimmy Kimmel Live on a Denver-based ABC affiliate. At the last minute, KMGH (Channel 7) got cold feet, pulling the plug after the station’s lawyers freaked out.

The ad, for Neos, a vaporizer and cannabis-oil company, was hardly Cheech and Chong—in fact, it didn’t show marijuana at all. Instead, the spot featured young people hiking up mountain trails and enjoying themselves—weed-free. “You lead an adventurous life, always finding new ways to relax,” boomed the REI-looking advert. “Now enjoy the best effects and control with Neos portable vape pen and recreate discreetly this summer.” Blasphemous!

The station is owned by E.W. Scripps Company, which yanked the spot due to concerns the feds might revoke their broadcasting license for showcasing a substance on federal airwaves that’s illegal at the national level. “Scripps has decided not to accept marijuana advertising at this time,” said Scripps mouthpiece Valerie Miller. “We are proud to be a company of free speech and open expression, but we have concerns about the lack of clarity around federal regulations that govern broadcast involving such ads.”

The same last-minute ditch happened last week in Portland, when ABC affiliate network KATU pulled a marijuana-related commercial that was supposed to run during the six o’clock hour. Again, the ad didn’t feature fat nugs or hipsters firing up—it was for September’s Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference. And we’d hate for anyone to attend that, right!?

Ya can’t blame the stations, really; they’re terrified about the possibility of losing their FCC licenses. The Controlled Substances Act is serious and specific about not allowing advertising that promotes Schedule I drugs. In fact, a violation of Section 843 is a felony, kids, with prison time and a roommate who’s probably not nearly as friendly as those featured on ABC shows, including Revenge, Scandal, American Crime, Castle, Rookie Blue, How to Get Away With Murder, et al…

Those marijuana ads may have gone up in smoke, but they’re the beginning of a move toward the mainstream. As noted, local and state laws are well and good, but issues like banking, medical coverage, insurance, and taxes—and now advertisements—are eventually going to need to be approved by Uncle Sam. (The FCC has no problem, of course, with the alcohol industry spending $2 billion a year on advertising and over $500 million on TV ads alone, much less Viagra ads galore.) Before you know it, a canna-company could be advertising alongside Bud Light in the Super Bowl. (Emphasis on the Bowl.)

CALIFORNIA 2016
The next governor of California, Gavin Newsom, spearheaded a report on legalization in his state, intended to influence the half-dozen groups crafting pro-marijuana ballot proposals for 2016. Before we get to the details, let’s note one important factor: Newsom’s an incredibly handsome bastard! Guy makes Gary Hart look downright hideous! (Sorry, Gary.)

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy’s report emphasizes child safety, tight regulations on sales, safeguarding access for medical-marijuana users, and preventing the next “Big Tobacco.” God, he’s got great hair! (Sorry.) The 24-member panel, convened by the Brill Boy and American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, lays out 58 recommendations addressing, among other things, training standards, stoned driving, age limits, and taxes for public health programs. “We’re not arguing for a free market,” noted the beautiful Lt. Governor. “We’re arguing for a very regulated market that has real oversight, that is flexible.” (I bet he’s flexible.)

The report recommends a flexible tax structure that’s not too high (which would encourage black-market exchanges) or too low (which would encourage teenagers), and that is also union-friendly. (When you’re in Cali, ya gotta kiss up to the unions, even the ones growing ganja.) It also suggests tax revenue go toward drug education, treatment programs, and policing illegal growers who are sucking up water from streams and public parks.

One small problem with the group’s report: Though there are a shitload of pot smokers in California (almost 15 percent of all pot smokers in the U.S.), overall it’s an export state! It’s estimated that California grows almost 40 percent of the nation’s marijuana—and exports over 70 percent of that! Makes me wonder if these powerful and rich growers really are interested in a seed-to-sale tracking system that taxes, inspects, licenses, and regulates marijuana.

OUT OF SIGHT
Gov. Jay Inslee just signed a new open-container law, making it illegal for unwrapped cannabis edibles and other weed products to be visible in the cockpit of a car. House Bill 1276 is an attempt to get marijuana laws in line with those pertaining to drinking and driving. Just as open alcohol containers are illegal inside vehicles (including the glovebox!), now weed is too. So keep your bong, joints, nugs, brownies, and baggies of Blueberry Kush in the trunk. And if you happen to be driving a VW bus that has no trunk (or minivan, Mom), the law states that marijuana items must be stored behind the seat furthest from the steering wheel. Which is probably where the pot smokers are hangin’ out anyway. What a long, strange road trip this has been . . .

For more Higher Ground, visit highergroundtv.com.

 
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