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NBC, CBS, ABC, & FOX Happy to Profit from Marijuana, as Long as Nobody Talks About Legalizing It

Everywhere you look, corporate media are covering pot stories, except for the issue of its illegality and the lives ruined by prohibition.

Marijuana legalization is the hottest topic in the media these days. MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, FOX, NatGeo, and CBS News have presented special features on marijuana business, medical marijuana, and the marijuana legalization movement. Google Trends is showing double the interest in searches and news hits for the term “marijuana legalization”. Showtime’s hit series Weeds, about a suburban mom turned pot dealer, is entering its fifth season. Everywhere you look, corporate media are happy to profit from America’s most popular herb.

Unless you want to address marijuana’s illegality and the lives that are shattered by the effects of marijuana prohibition. In that case, the corporate media cannot have anything to do with you, even if you want to pay to broadcast the message of ending adult marijuana prohibition.

Case in point: CBS. At the end of June, CBS’s new internet radio venture, ChatAboutIt.com, contacted NORML. One of our advisory board, Ann Druyan, advertised her podcast in Talkers Magazine, an industry journal for talk radio. ChatAboutIt was interested in hosting Druyan’s show, but Druyan wasn’t interested in the offer.

This is where I come in. I am a talk radio professional, having hosted my show ( The Russ Belville Show) on XM Satellite Radio and AM 620 KPOJ in Portland, for almost two years. I have guest-hosted for the extremely popular Bill Press Show in Washington DC. For the past year and a half, I have hosted NORML’s Daily Audio Stash, the organization’s daily news and interviews podcast. I contacted ChatAboutIt to discuss creating a new live talk radio show dedicated to this incredibly popular phenomenon around medical marijuana and marijuana legalization called NORML SHOW LIVE.

Throughout the negotiations, the salesman from ChatAboutIt was fantastic. He joined me and NORML’s executive staff by conference call. We emphasized that we are NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We told them that we would have advertisers involved with promoting marijuana - legally, as they are co-ops and dispensaries in California and Colorado - marijuana-themed magazines, doctors, clinics, authors, musicians, and so on. We told them we would be talking about marijuana legalization, our web page would have marijuana leaves on it, callers would be talking about marijuana, and, oh, by the way, did we mention that the show was about marijuana?

It’s all good, we were assured by the salesman. He said he’d run it all by his VP and this was fine. He said we’d own all our content and we could run all our ads. We verbally agreed this was a go and all we needed to do was to raise the $6,000 necessary to pay for the first two months of broadcast. We explained that we’d need to produce some press releases to raise the money. To be sure we weren’t saying or promoting anything in any way that CBS would not approve, we submitted our release to CBS, which did make some changes. They approved of our revised release and we posted it on the NORML Blog and front page on Wednesday.

Thursday morning I receive a call from the salesman at ChatAboutIt. “People higher up” had seen the release “on the blogs” and they “will not green light your show”.

Now, CBS has all the right in the world to decide what to put on their airwaves or cyberstreams; I’m not crying “censorship”. If they want to pass up affiliation with the most recognized brand in marijuana and a professional live call-in show dealing with the hottest topic in the media, that’s their call.

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