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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Facebook Spurns Pro-Pot Ads. But You Still May See Them on Muni.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge You won't be seeing this ad on Facebook anytime soon...
  • You won't be seeing this ad on Facebook anytime soon...
Pot delivery service owner says Muni has accepted his ads

Facebook's not so special. Updates to your Farmville aside, the de rigueur social networking platform is behind the curve, at least when it comes to denying cannabis-related businesses interests the right to advertise.

Facebook this week made some noise when it stopped running ads from Just Say Now. The ads were in support of pot legalization measure Proposition 19, and featured a marijuana leaf. A pot leaf supports smoking and thus violates Facebook's ad policy, according to a spokesman for Facebook (which had nonetheless ran the ad for nine days in front of the eyes of 38 million viewers, according to Wired.com.

This is nothing new for Facebook, nor is it anything new for folks in the cannabis biz wishing to promote their (legal) goods or services. Earlier this summer, Bay Area-based Medicann, a medical marijuana recommendation and ID card service, received a permanent ban from Facebook for running its "Typical Stoner" ad -- in which well-dressed, rich-looking professionals are revealed to be potheads.

This information came from a Medicann employee not approved to speak on the record (A Medicann spokesman has yet to return calls from SF Weekly seeking comment). And in the springtime, a stock car featuring an ad for the TV show Cannabis Planet was barred from competition until it removed the offending ad.

click to enlarge pot_billboard_350.jpg
Then there's the case of Kevin Reed and his short-lived highway billboard. Reed is the owner of the Green Cross, the city's only licensed medical cannabis delivery service. He has many customers based in Daly City, where city leaders have banned dispensaries. Wishing to reach out to one of his target demographics, Reed rented billboard space at the Serramonte Center shopping mall, where a digital billboard display illuminates nearby Interstate-280 with continuous commercial messages. Passing motorists saw a fairly innocuous ad for the The Green Cross for all of 12 hours. The ad went live on Aug. 5 at 9 p.m. At 9 a.m. the next day, management at the mall saw the ad, freaked out, and called the ad company -- which sheepishly returned the Green Cross' money and turned off the ad.

"Our logo has a leaf in it, and that's what was controversial," Reed told SF Weekly. "I'm not sure what the mall's exact position was, but [CityReach, Inc., the ad company, said] they wanted the marijuana ad down immediately."

Reed has a history of running afoul of public opinion -- his brick-and-mortar dispensary at 22nd and Valencia was forced to close after neighbors pitched a fit, and, likewise, his plan to open a storefront at Fisherman's Wharf was deep-sixed after a public outcry.

Yet he hasn't abandoned advertising Green Cross: He's just going to do it locally. Green Cross's distinctive logo could grace Muni buses and bus shelters as soon as October, when Reed's contract with the SFMTA goes into effect, he said.

Will the cash-strapped MTA have a problem with pot leaves on its vehicles? SF Weekly earlier noted that Muni edited the guns out of a billboard for The Other Guys, per its advertising policies.

But guns and pot are not one and the same. According to Reed: "They approved my artwork [Tuesday]."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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