By Guy Bentley – The majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, according to a poll published Sunday.
The percentage of Americans who support marijuana legalization rose four points to 52 percent from when YouGov last asked the same question back in March 2015.
More than half of adults under the age of 65 support legalization but there is still strong opposition from those aged 65 and over. Democrats were overwhelmingly in favor of a more relaxed position on cannabis, with 66 percent supporting an end to prohibition.
This contrasted starkly with Republicans, with just over a third of GOP supporters supporting legalization. Around half of independent voters sided with legalization.
While support for full legalization commanded the backing of a little over half the country, a massive majority agreed that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws were costing more than they’re worth.
66 percent of those polled said the attempt to enforce the country’s marijuana laws cost more than it’s worth, with just 14 percent disagreeing.
The US records much support for marijuana legalization than comparable countries in western Europe such as Germany or the United Kingdom. Brits oppose loosening marijuana laws by 49 percent to 32 percent and Germany opposes legalization by 45 to 39 percent.
Federal regulation of marijuana is an ongoing challenge for businesses operating under state law providing marijuana products for recreational use and dispensaries providing marijuana medicine to patients as compassionate caregivers. But what about the organizations working to promote these operations that are legal under state and local law?
CannaBrand is one such company, and it recently dealt with the decision to air—and then pull—what would have been the first marijuana commercial on live television.
A public relations, marketing and advertising agency, CannaBrand represents a number of clients that distribute cannabis products including Denver’s cannabis oil and vaporizer provider Neos. According to CannaBrand co-founder Olivia Mannix, ABC affiliate KMGH in Denver contacted her company to let them know that the station was open to airing or broadcasting cannabis-related commercials, under a few restrictions—that cannabis could not be visible in the ad and it could not be referred to directly.
“We put together a commercial for Neos because we thought it was a really great opportunity [to be among] the first cannabis commercials that will be broadcasted and such,” Mannix said. “But basically what happened was, it was about to run and at the very last minute, ABC got back to us and said the commercial is on hold now. So it got moved to Tuesday instead of Monday. Then on that Monday, we heard that they were being pulled altogether.”
Mannix said that her understanding of Colorado’s Amendment 64, which is the amendment that legalized the recreational us of cannabis in the state, meant that commercials were allowed as long as it can be proven that the viewers are over 21.
“ABC local channel News 7 just had a Nielsen report run and it was showing that during 10:30 p.m. Mountain Time, 97 percent of the audience is over the age of 21,” she explained. “So understandably all parties involved would think that this is legal and compliant and such. . . . It’s definitely really interesting in how it that played out and there’s definitely been quite hype about the whole thing. We are curious to see if there will be any changes made. It’s just a lot of grey areas. We are going to be working in the MED, the Marijuana Enforcement Division, to figure out a solution and really figure out how we can have defined laws so there will be no more confusion.”
If television ads are still out of the question, what about advertising on the web, on radio and podcasts?
“Some local radio channels allow for cannabis related ads, so voice overs,” Mannix said. “We can also advertise on cannabis publications, so Culture Magazine, for instance, is one. There’s the Westword here in Denver, which is more of a Denver lifestyle magazine, but they have an entire cannabis section. High Times magazine out of New York City, and then there are actually some non-cannabis-related publications that allow for it. It it’s still definitely a grey area, but I do think that over time there’s going to be more ads allowed.”
In marketing marijuana, Mannix said her company has to be hyper strategic and creative in the way they help clients get their message to their target market. “One of the biggest things that we do is digital marketing—social media management, email marketing—because we can really control the messaging,” she said. “And really, your social media pages, like your Facebook and Twitter, that’s really your brand voice and the face of your brand. So you can talk to your target market through those portals. Another great thing is PR, because you can communicate with journalists about your brand, and then you have a even broader reach because there are no restrictions with PR because it is under the First Amendment freedom of speech, so you are not really restricted on that level. But when it comes to advertising, there’s definitely a lot more restrictions, so we are definitely still in the process of figuring out the best ways to market the product.”
CannaBrand has a variety of clientele, including e-commerce boutique head shop Inhale Mercantile. “They sell really high-end glass, stash jars, cannabis accessories, so anything really cannabis related, and vaporizers,” Mannix said. Other partners include a cannabis market research company, The Brightfield Group, and online medical marijuana platform MJ Wellness. “We also work with the actual dispensaries, so help the with their branding, and even design of their dispensary—the interior design aspect,” she said. “. . . So each different type of clients has a different way to market, because they have different products and then target markets, so people and demographics that they are trying to market to.”
To be in her line of work, Mannix has to also work tirelessly as an activist in the fight for legalization. “Cannabis as a plant, it’s a medicine and we just need to start treating it like that,” she said, noting that it’s restrictions like what she faced with the Neos commercial that makes it hard to legitimize cannabis.
On July 1, recreational marijuana becomes legal in Oregon as the personal cultivation and possession provisions of Measure 91, a state-wide voter-approved referendum that prevailed in November of 2014, take effect. The Oregonian notes that, starting on Wednesday, adults 21 and up will be allowed to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana at home and up to 1 ounce while traveling. Home growers will be allowed to grow up to 4 cannabis plants per residence.
According to The Oregonian’s Noelle Crombie, “Anyone 21 and older can possess up to 1 pound of solid edibles, or about 10 chocolate bars; 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid, or a six-pack of 12-ounce sodas; and 1 ounce of marijuana extract.”
Smoking pot in public remains illegal in Oregon and is punished with a fine of up to $1000. Under the law, plants grown in a resident’s yard must not be visible to the naked eye from the street.
However, Measure 91 tasked the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Oregon Legislature with crafting rules for a legal recreational marijuana marketplace, which has not yet taken place, meaning the sale of recreational pot will not yet be legal when the personal cultivation and possession provisions take effect on Wednesday. In the above-embedded video, Noelle Crombie and fellow marijuana policy expert at The Oregonian Jeff Mapes discuss the particulars of legalization and the legislative hurdles facing growers and sellers in the state.
Portland NORML is raising awareness to the lack of a legal market for recreational pot in Oregon by giving away free marijuana as the clock strikes midnight on July 1. KFOR-TV cited a statement by Portland NORML which read, “While it becomes legal to possess and cultivate cannabis, there is no legal place in Oregon to buy marijuana itself or cannabis seeds and starts. Portland NORML will educate the public and our partners will give away thousands of seeds and hundreds of pounds of marijuana this year so Washington State and the black market do not benefit from our new marijuana legality.”
As it stands, the state will begin taking applications for large-scale cultivation and sales operations in January of 2016. However, the recreational pot industry is unlikely to start in the state until fall of next year.
According to The Associated Press, the Oregon Legislature’s joint marijuana committee approved a proposal last week to allow the state’s over 300 approved medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling to recreational customers in October of 2015 as a temporary solution to buy time while lawmakers craft rules for a legal pot marketplace.
In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode highlighting the federal government’s mixed messages on marijuana. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.
In a recent interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, WI Police Chief Mike Koval called the War on Drugs an “abject failure” and endorsed the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. He bolstered his argument by pointing out the fact that the city’s African American population is being cited or arrested for marijuana offences at twelve times the rate of Caucasians, parroting the concerns of national figures like US senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker, who have been pushing for criminal justice reform in the wake of the drug war’s disproportionate application on the basis of race. Chief Koval said that he believes that taxes taken from marijuana sales should be used to fund drug treatment programs and drug courts to help addicts beat hard narcotics like heroin without facing incarceration.
Chief Koval told the Wisconsin State Journal, “We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now.” He pointed to states like Washington and Colorado where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use as examples of what could be done in Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, marijuana remains totally illegal, and the state’s marijuana legalization initiatives have gained little political traction so far. Wisconsin did recently pass a bill that allows patients suffering from seizure disorders to possess non-psychoactive cannabidiol without facing criminal penalties, though critics have called the bill legally unworkable due to the fact that it does not provide a way for patients to get their medication legally. On Mother’s Day of this year, 7-year-old Lydia Schaeffer, whose mother lobbied heavily for the cannabidiol legalization bill, passed away from the seizure-causing Kleefstra syndrome while waiting for the bill to be implemented. The state has yet to pass a bill legalizing marijuana for broader medical use, though Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) introduced legislation to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes earlier this year, so the possibility remains on the horizon.
Madison Police Chief Koval made news earlier this summer when he commented on the clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, MO. In an interview with WISC-TV News 3, seen below, Koval described his strategy for dealing with protests, which differs starkly from what was seen in Ferguson. Said Koval, “You don’t show up in hard gear with riot gear and a facial visor. You show up in soft gear. That way, I think you take the anonymity away from the crowd. You develop yourself as a relational person to the crowd, and in that sense, you’re less likely to see these things go more viral in terms of the proclivity to violence.”
In related news, Ben Swann just released a new Truth in Media episode, which can be seen in the player below, exposing the truth about politicians’ mixed messages on medical cannabis. The episode, which primarily concerns the fact that the government denies the efficacy of cannabis as medicine while owning the patent on medical cannabis, features discussion on how some state governments like Wisconsin are legalizing cannabidiol but not legalizing other psychoactive forms of medical cannabis, thus under-serving sick patients who need treatment.