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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Corporate Advertising Still Rejecting Marijuana Money (But Muni Loves It)

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 2:55 PM

click to enlarge One of the few. - MAGNOLIA WELLNESS
  • Magnolia Wellness
  • One of the few.
Few businesses we know would turn down $6,000 a month for doing next to nothing. Take billboards, for example. Once they're installed, not much else happens aside from cashing a check.
That's too much to ask from billboard giants CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel, which are rejecting money from medical cannabis dispensaries looking to rent billboards. 

There's a billboard rush in the Bay Area these days. Tech companies engaging in bidding wars have driven up the price for advertising spots near traffic-clogged US-101 to as much as $40,000 per month, Bloomberg News reported in November.

Oakland-based marijuana club Magnolia Wellness was priced out of that market, but could afford an East Bay spot. Rejected by the big companies, their large ad is now hovering above freeways near Interstate 580 and San Pablo, on a billboard owned by a small business. 

Somehow, one San Francisco dispensary is successfully buying corporate billboard space. The Magnolia ad went up in the fall, after efforts to buy space from CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel were rejected, says David Spradlin, the dispensary's director.

He's not positive, but believes that Federal Communications Commission pressure — the FCC regulates outdoor advertising, which would include billboards — contributes to media refusing to accept advertising from cannabis businesses.

That's not great for business, considering the East Bay's competitive market for cannabis. And not great for billboard companies, given cannabis dispensaries' need to spend as much money as they take in (they're nonprofit collectives or cooperatives under California law, remember, which means any  "profit" must be reinvested back into the business). 

One place where cannabis has had no problem advertising is Muni. For the better part of a decade, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has allowed local legal cannabis businesses to buy space on buses — both inside and out.
click to enlarge All aboard the fun bus! - COURTESY/THE GREEN CROSS
  • Courtesy/The Green Cross
  • All aboard the fun bus!

Excelsior District dispensary The Green Cross has been buying Muni space for years. And, somehow, they had no problem buying a Clear Channel billboard — all they had to do was agree to remove the marijuana leaf from their ad, a Green Cross rep told us.
click to enlarge Corporate cannabis flies in SF. - COURTESY/THE GREEN CROSS
  • Courtesy/The Green Cross
  • Corporate cannabis flies in SF.

This is inconsistent and doesn't make a lot of sense... like most things about the country's marijuana problem.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

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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