Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals wants to talk cannabis on Super Bowl Sunday: 'Why are we censoring this?'
Weedmaps' Super Bowl ad was reportedly denied by NBC
LOS ANGELES – Super Bowl Sunday will feature several commercials, ranging from beer ads to sports gambling and even crypto. But there’s one thing that won’t be advertised when fans tune in to watch the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals: cannabis.
Weedmaps released a commercial online to try and start the conversation about cannabis use – recreationally and medicinally. The spot features the character "Brock Ollie" going through his workday but getting hit with the general stereotypes about weed smokers. The ad conveys that cannabis talk is OK as long as marijuana is depicted as something different – broccoli, a leaf or a pot.
Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals told FOX Business in a recent interview that he and his company have been trying to move the dialogue forward when it comes to cannabis use.
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"We've had a long history of doing work in sports, so a lot of it was action sports, Surf Skate, X Games, things like that. And then, you know, we've constantly been trying to kind of push the dialogue forward around cannabis, cannabis monetization, just be able to talk about it, given that it’s legal in 37 states. I think with the commercial we said, look, we want to do something that highlights exactly that. Like, why are we censoring this? Let's have a conversation about it and try and run it with the Super Bowl," he said.
"Obviously, we weren't able to do that. But what really sits behind it is this idea, cannabis at this point is legal in far more states than sports gambling, and we can’t even talk about it in the general societal sense or even the medicinal sense."
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NBC reportedly barred Weedmaps from running the commercial. An NBC spokesperson told Ad Week the company doesn’t accept ads for "cannabis or cannabis-related business" on any platform. NBC did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
The irony of it all: Weedmaps is based in California, and Super Bowl LVI will be played in Inglewood. Those who are going to game – or not – can be subjected to Weedmaps ads anyway. Medicinal use for marijuana was legalized more than two decades ago, and recreational use was legalized more than five years ago
"We see the censorship on social media with Facebook, Instagram, that sort of thing. I think it's doubly strange here because you have widespread advertising everywhere. And so it's essentially ubiquitous and in this home market, even local, not being able to do it is strange," Beals told FOX Business. "I'd be lying if I didn't say it didn't surprise me, though, because, you know, it's just exactly that. There's been this very sort of cautious nature by media to really highlight it, to talk about it. Yet, if you look outside the traditional media channels it’s everywhere."
Beals said it was going to take some time to break the stigma and the stereotypes surrounding the drug.
"To some degree, it’s a couple of things. The war on drugs, the D.A.R.E. program – that was a $35-$40 billion propaganda campaign to tell us that weed was going to make us stupid and everything, and so you have to acknowledge that a lot of money went into educating this position," he said.
"When we did our Kevin Durant partnership last year, with doing this ad, with things we’ve done in the past, it’s frankly a step-by-step process, and it is getting cannabis in front of people and not relying on sort of stoner stereotypes or puns but having sort of a very highbrow conversation around it medicinally and presenting it in a frankly serious light. And I think if you keep doing that long enough, we're going to break this stigma down. But again, it's going to take a little time to chip away at a $40 billion propaganda campaign."
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The Rams and Bengals will do battle at Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, Feb. 13.