Drugs

CBS Corporation Bans Ad Calling for Marijuana Legalization Over 'Morals'

The fifteen-second ad, asserting that taxing and regulating the adult use and sale of marijuana would raise 'billions of dollars in national revenue,' was rejected out of hand

Representatives from the CBS Corporation and Neutron Media Screen Marketing have rejected a paid advertisementfrom the NORML Foundation, the educational arm of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), that was intended to appear on the CBS Super Screen billboard in New York City’s Times Square.

The fifteen-second ad, which asserts that taxing and regulating the adult use and sale of marijuana would raise ‘billions of dollars in national revenue, was scheduled to appear on CBS’s 42nd Street digital billboard beginning on Monday, February 1, 2010.

Representatives from Neutron Media approached NORML in mid-January about placing the ad, which was scheduled to air 18 times per day for a two-month period. The NORML Foundation entered into a contractual agreement with Neutron Media to air two separate NORML advertisements, and produced an initial ad exclusively for broadcast on the CBS digital billboard.

Days after NORML’s submitted the ad, the organization received the following e-mail, dated February 3, from a representative from Neutron Media stated:“I just received word from CBS and they will not approve your ad. If CBS changes their morals we will let you know.”

NORML’s 15-second animated advertisement is available online here.

Commenting on CBS’ last minute rejection of the ad, NORML Foundation Executive Allen St. Pierre said, “Major media corporations like CBS have no problem airing programming that allows them to profit off the public’s interest in marijuana and marijuana law reform, such as Showtime’s hit series Weeds and the CBSnews.com online series ‘Marijuana Nation.’ Yet these same corporate entities balk at airing media that calls on reforming America’s criminal marijuana policies – policies that have led directly to the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965. How can advocates be expected to change these failed policies when those that control America’s airwaves refuse to allow them a public forum to voice their point of view?”

According to the results of a December 2009 Angus Reid survey, fifty-three percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana.

St. Pierre continued: “University studies show that regulating the adult use of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol would raise over $30 billion annually in new tax revenue, while saving an addition $15 billion per year in law enforcement costs. The content of NORML’s ad is based on sound, readily identifiable data. Moreover, the message of NORML’s advertisement is supported by a majority of the public. CBS’ denial of this ad spot is based on the company’s political and cultural bias and nothing more.”

Last summer NORML entered into negotiations with CBS to launch a live Saturday night radio broadcast on the corporation’s ChatAboutIt.com talk radio network. CBS representatives initially agreed to the programming, but then abruptly canceled the contract after NORML had raised the funding to produce its first show.

In 2009, the NORML Foundation launched the first-ever nationwide television ad campaign calling for the regulation of marijuana by adults. The Foundation purchased over 7,700 ad buys on prominent cable networks like CNBC, Fox News, G4, and FX. The ad campaign did not air on any CBS-affiliated networks.

Last week, moderators of a February 1 live YouTube debate with President Barack Obama failed to ask any questions regarding marijuana policy, even though the topic was the top vote getter on the website’s Citizen Tube/State of the Union poll.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).