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The Wrong Bud Was Given the Green Light for Super Bowl Advertisement

Acreage Holdings admitted a medical marijuana campaign to run as a Super Bowl advertisement, but it was declined. Yet alchol continues to sponsor the event.

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Super Bowl Advertisement
PHOTO | Marco Verch
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It’s an American culture cornerstone that’s lasted for decades – families create traditions that are handed down for generations based solely on this one day alone. That’s right, we’re talking about the Super Bowl. Even if you don’t like football, the halftime show, food, beverages, and commercials make it worth sitting in a room with your friends for an entire afternoon. This year, an interesting advertisement was pitched to CBS to run during Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, February 3rd. Unfortunately, it was dropped quicker than you can say “go long.”

Acreage Holdings, who has former U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner sits on its board of directors, was prepared to pay more than $5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement in an effort to create awareness around medical marijuana. CBS instantly rejected the idea, but why?

Wholesome Intentions

Acreage Holdings’ pitch was designed as a call to action around the benefits of medical marijuana. It was set to feature a veteran with injuries from combat as well as a child who suffered from seizures. Given that medical marijuana is now legal in upwards of 30 states across the nation, it’s logical that this industry would begin to flex some muscle and position themselves to receive more attention.

Acreage was careful to craft their advertisement in such a way that wasn’t self-serving, despite the fact that their brand is sold in multiple states. Instead, they hoped to give a voice to the people who are being lost in the conversation about cannabis with the intention of bolstering more support for increased research and accessibility.

“We put together a storyboard for an ad we planned on producing, and we submitted it to the ad buying team at CBS through a media partner of ours. Very quickly after we submitted, we received rejection, and it wasn’t wholly unexpected,” says Harris Damashek, the company’s chief marketing officer in an interview.

“We definitely want to underscore the fact that we don’t begrudge CBS or the NFL in any way. They are just doing what they can and need to be doing to protect themselves.”

With so many eyes on each commercial spot, why can’t cannabis find its home here?

Super Bowl Advertisement Ruling Is Sending the Wrong Message

It’s not terribly surprising that a major television network denied the opportunity to draw attention to weed. As a whole, it’s fairly clear that the nation just isn’t ready for that yet, despite the increasing amounts of support for both medical and recreational use across various regions. For some, cannabis may have come across as being thrown in front of your face during half time, however, there’s a piece to this puzzle that’s even more frustrating.

Some of the most popular and arguably humorous Super Bowl ads are the ones from alcohol companies. Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois, and more have all made dozens of appearances over the years, proudly promoting their brand and some might say encouraging viewers to drink their product. Why is it perfectly acceptable for alcohol ads to continue to air during the Super Bowl without the blink of an eye, but something that’s medicinally effective is given the pink slip right away?

It’s an argument that would no doubt be heated depending on who you ask, but ultimately CBS’s rejection of the Acreage advertisement simply continues to show that the nation isn’t ready to fully accept cannabis as a viable medicinal option. At least those in the industry are recognizing an opportunity, pushing for change, and taking every chance they get to help subdue stereotypes and normalize a substance that has helped countless individuals around the world.

Will this decision affect your desire to watch the Super Bowl in the first place, or is the exclusion of the cannabis community a mere blip on the radar? Perhaps it’s a topic to discuss while eating chips and dip on February 3rd.

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MLB Officially Removes Cannabis From Banned Substances List

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Banned Substances List
PHOTO | Savannah1969

America’s oldest past-time is chock full of unspoken rules, old-school traditions and players from nations all over the globe on some of the richest contracts in all sports. Now, thanks to some official changes to the rules, those baseball players will be able to spend some of that money they’re making on enjoying cannabis carefree. 

In a move that raised many eyebrows, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the players union announced they had reached an agreement to remove cannabis from the sport’s banned substances list. 

“Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides for mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving natural cannabinoids,” MLB said via an official press release. 

The league will now treat cannabis use the same way they treat alcohol abuse, separating cannabis from some of the harder black market drugs around like cocaine and opioids.

The new rules also dictate that substances like synthetic cannabinoids, cocaine and opioids like fentanyl will now be added to the banned substances list, reflecting the league’s new focus on stamping out opioid abuse. 

On top of the new testing and banned substance policy, the league will require players to take part in newly implemented programs covering “the dangers of opioid pain medications and practical approaches to marijuana” which will reportedly focus on “evidence-based and health-first approaches based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety.”

These new educational programs and the addition of opioids like fentanyl reflect the grim realities in much of Middle America at the moment. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths due to opioids have increased by nearly 10 percent since 2016 and just like any other population, MLB athletes have been directly impacted. 

Tyler Skaggs, a 27-year-old pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angelos Angels, died last July due to an opioid overdose. According to the L.A. Times, his autopsy revealed a mix of fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol leading to his death by choking on his own vomit. 

While Skaggs’ death was ruled accidental after a brief investigation, reports did reveal a Los Angelos Angels employee admitted to providing oxycodone for him, which likely plays a major role in these new rules and educational programs.    

The changes are set to take effect at the start of 2020 spring training.

The move comes as more states ready for legalization in 2020, with states with MLB teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians all make a major push via state legislation or ballot measures.

With popular opinion among U.S. adults clearly on the side of legalization, experts projecting the global legal cannabis market to be worth as much as $66.3 billion by 2025 and the popularity, TV viewership and in-stadium attendance for the sport of baseball dipping to an all-time low, America’s pastime embracing cannabis might be the shot in the arm they need to get some younger viewers back.  

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PGA Tour Golfer Matt Every Suspended Over Medical Cannabis Use

A statement released on Friday confirms that Matt Every has a 3-month suspension for violating the Tour’s conduct policy on drugs of abuse.

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Matt Every Suspended
PHOTO | Orrios

The PGA has confirmed that professional golfer, Matt Every, has been suspended for 12 weeks, due to a violation of its Conduct Policy on drugs of abuse, effective from Friday, October 19.

Every will be eligible to return January 7 and will miss only three tournaments for which he would have been eligible — the Bermuda Championship, the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico and the RSM Classic at Sea Island.

In a statement sent to GolfChannel.com, Every confirmed he has tested positive for cannabis, but it was a legal prescription — prescribed in Florida, where he resides — to treat his mental health.

“I have been prescribed cannabis for a mental health condition by my physician whom has managed my medical care for 30 years,” Every said. “It has been determined that I am neither an acceptable candidate to use prescription “Z” class drugs nor benzodiazepines.

“Additionally, these classes of drugs can be highly addictive and harmful to the human body and mind. For me, cannabis has proven to be, by far, the safest and most effective treatment.”

Being aware of the Tour’s policy before he violated it, the 35-year-old said he has “no choice but to accept this suspension and move on.”

“I knew what WADA’s [World Anti-Doping Agency] policy was and I violated it,” Every said. “I don’t agree with it for many reasons, mainly for my overall well-being, but I’m excited for what lies ahead in my life and career. Over the last few years I have made massive strides and I know my best is still in front of me. I can’t wait to come back better than ever in January.”

The two-times Tour winner is now the seventh player to be suspended under the Tour’s policy against drugs of abuse that was implemented in 2008. It follows the three-month ban of Robert Garrigus in March of this year.

Despite being medically and recreationally legal in many states, cannabis is still listed as a banned substance under the Tour’s anti-doping policy.

The Tour said it would have no further comment on the suspension.

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CBD Sponsorship of Professional Motocross Takes Another Step Forward

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CBD Sponsorship
PHOTO | Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool

CBD sponsorship is making moves in professional motocross and supercross, once again, after progress stalled in early 2019.

For those living under a rock, CBD aka cannabidiol is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. But, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t offer a high. The latter’s strengths are helping to treat serious conditions such as epilepsy, to controlling anxiety, helping manage pain, aid in muscle recovery, better sleep and overall wellness.

Certain attributes — such as recovery, sleep and overall wellness — has seen professional athletes add CBD to training programs. That has seen the rise of cannabis advocates in a wide scope of sports, whether stick-and-ball (like hockey, football and baseball), through to action sports that sit out of the mainstream (like MMA and motocross).

It has also seen an influx of cannabis advocates, like MMA’s Bas Rutten and motocross stars Carey Hart and Chad Reed, all using that ‘legend’ status in each sport to help educate fans and followers about the benefits of CBD.

While the likes of Hart and Reed continue to share their belief in CBD on social media, it only goes so far in motocross, with its use and marketing leading to controversy in the pro motocross racing scene.

 

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There was no problem with racers being sponsored and supported by CBD companies until February 2019, which was when supported athletes were censored during broadcasts of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. The ban prohibited the logos of CBD companies, enforced by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) after it was brought to the attention of Feld Motor Sports, the promoter of the series.

The problem was not the use of CBD by the athletes, but the two logos of CBD brands — Ignite and cbdMD — visible on bikes and riders during broadcasts on NBC. The first to be censored was Dean Wilson, who was told to cover the Ignite logos, followed by Chad Reed being forced to censor the cbdMD logos on his helmet.

There were inconsistencies with the ban and censorship, depending on where the racing took place (such as Texas, where CBD is still not legal). To add more confusion, both the AMA and The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) allows racers to use CBD since it is not on the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

But There Has Been Progress

The AMA posted a bulletin that outlines how CBD will be handled in 2020 and beyond.

Again, these steps are related to the displaying of logos at the races, whether in the pits, on the bike or the gear (especially if seen during television broadcasts).

Due to recent changes in state laws, limited hemp-based cannabidiol “CBD” product sponsorships at certain onsite event locations during the upcoming 2020 Supercross season will be allowed subject to the following requirements and restrictions contained herein.

But there are requirements to the eligibility, with the “CBD products must be derived from hemp and contain less than .3% THC,” and “any logos or signage that include or relate to cannabis are prohibited.” Of course, “CBD product sponsorships are void in whole or in part wherever prohibited by law.”

That means signage or promotional displays for CBD related products are to be permitted in the pit areas of the 2020 series. But the distribution or sale of any CBD related products or samples would be strictly prohibited.

The broadcast restrictions are still uncertain. For now, the AMA states that “no rider, team or sponsor should assume that any promotional displays of CBD product on the track that may be captured by the broadcast will be allowed until further notice.” That means riders will run the risk of the being censored or removed from competition.

These policies will remain in effect until further notice. But the AMA has stated the policies are “not intended to be all-inclusive and may be amended, appended, or rescinded in whole or in part at any time for any reason without advance notice.”

The real question is should professional athletes making more from sponsorship than purse money have further censorship due to prior restraint?

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