In Depth

Marijuana + Sushi = Bizarre Local-TV Spot for Medical Marijuana Service -- Ad for Medical Cannabis Network to Run in Overnight Hours

By Michael Sebastian
Advertising Age

Medical Cannabis Network, a website pairing patients with doctors willing to recommend medical marijuana, is rolling out a cable TV blitz in New Jersey starting this weekend.

The ad, which depicts a dealer slinging sushi from his leather jacket, is aimed at doctors and patients, according to Jason Draizin, founder of Medical Cannabis Network. But the nature of the ads, and the time slots in which they're scheduled to air, could make them more appealing to the late-night set.

In the spot, which Medical Cannabis Network created itself, the slick dealer pulls raw fish from his coat, saying: "I got tuna, I got salmon, I got sweet shrimp. I got the finest sashimi this area has seen in years."

It's a befuddling message until a voiceover makes the appeal: "You wouldn't buy your sushi from this guy, so why would you buy your marijuana from him?"

The commercial is set to appear on dozens of cable networks across the Garden State, including A&E, MTV2, History, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox News and more, according to Medical Cannabis Network. The spot will run between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not on family or children networks, according to a spokeswoman for Comcast Spotlight, which sold the ads in New Jersey.

Mr. Draizin said his company is not a marijuana dispensary or an advocacy group. The focus, instead, is exclusively on palliative care. But the ad comes after Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana, raising the possibilities for an influx of advertising around the product. Marketing dollars are mostly parked on the sidelines in Colorado, even though the new law has already taken effect.

Mr. Draizin founded the company in 2009 after seeing a family member battle a debilitating illness that medical marijuana could help soothe. Finding a doctor to recommend marijuana for this purpose was extremely difficult, he said. On MarijuanaDoctors.com, patients "can locate doctors who will evaluate their medical condition so that they may register for a medical marijuana card and then legally obtain cannabis to alleviate their pain," said Mr. Draizin, a former online marketer.

Twenty-two states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, along with Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana.

The ads are set to run for two weeks in New Jersey in March and another two weeks in Massachusetts in April. The requirements to qualify for medical marijuana in both states are among the stiffest, so the demand for a service such as Medical Cannabis Network could be higher. The company is planning to buy air time for the spot in Illinois this summer.