Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Cannabis is now legal in 36 states — 18 allow for adult-use — public support for legalization at federal level is at its highest, and the industry is raking in billions of dollars annually. But ads for anything that has to do with marijuana, CBD, or any other cannabis-related products are still banned from the Super Bowl.
Even with the big game in the biggest cannabis market in the country this year, and with Snoop Dogg performing in the halftime show (along with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige), one of the biggest advocates for all things weed. How can that be?
Weed bad, booze good
Basically: The National Football League and the network forbids it.
Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and cannabis ads are restricted to audiences over 21 in most of the country, cannabis falls under the “restricted” list for advertising during the Super Bowl, according to The Verge.
At this point it seems the NFL is just cherry picking what it sees as vices. Sports betting and distilled spirits, two things banned just a few years ago, have the greenlight again this year. While both things are technically legal, they’re specifically for a 21-and-over audience.
Maybe there’s hope for weed yet.
The world of weed and advertising
It’s not like the industry hasn’t tried. In 2019, CBS rejected a public service announcement highlighting the benefits of medical cannabis, which was intended to be aired during the Super Bowl. At the time, a network spokesperson told USA Today that, for the time being, pot-related ads did not fit CBS’ broadcast standards.
As New York worked through cannabis-use rules for the state in 2021, advertising for weed and psychedelics was banned from all subways, buses, and trains. Because if there’s one thing the public shouldn’t see on its daily commute, it’s where to find relaxing strains for stress management.
There are ways to market a cannabis brand around the Super Bowl, i.e. be relevant and witty on social media. You can always hint at cannabis, a la Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart in this ad for Bic lighters. Or be like Weedmaps, which has jumped onto the field with its “public service announcement” about how overuse of the broccoli emoji for weed has affected Brock Ollie, a lifesize broccoli stalk continuously mistaken for something he’s not.
At its root, however, the message is really about how advertising hurdles and social media censhorship continue to be a challenge for the cannabis industry. Check it out below.