This photo taken Feb. 13, 2013 shows different strains of marijuana displayed at a store in Seattle that sells medical marijuana products. Twenty states now have laws that allow for medical marijuana use. Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
A company called MarijuanaDoctors.com says it made history Monday when one of its commercials was aired by the biggest cable TV provider in the United States.
The TV spot began airing in New Jersey only and it will be played 800 times over the next two weeks. One of the company’s owners called it significant that the commercial is airing across the entire state and is being aired by Comcast, a telecommunications giant.
“We made history yesterday,” John Nicolazzo, chief operating officer and part owner, said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s a milestone.”
Medical marijuana has come a long way in the U.S. in recent years and is now legal in 20 states plus the District of Columbia. Colorado and Washington have gone even further and legalized marijuana for recreational use. Stores are open in Colorado while Washington is still making preparations.
Other jurisdictions are considering legalization or loosening of drug laws. Public opinion polls consistently suggest that attitudes toward marijuana are shifting in the United States, and now medical marijuana is being advertised on television. It’s an achievement, according to Nicolazzo.
“What we’ve been working toward was to have medical cannabis accepted in the mainstream media,” he said.
The company helps link patients seeking cannabis to doctors who are on board with prescribing it. New Jersey was the first target market for the TV ad, because the company gets a lot of calls from patients there who are having trouble finding medical marijuana doctors and providers, said Nicolazzo.
The company is aimed not only at patients but at doctors in order to educate them about their state’s laws and how medical marijuana can be used.
Company plans expansion in Canada
The theme of the television commercial is that patients should turn to a trusted source for information about medical marijuana. “Simple. Confidential. Safe,” the voiceover says.
A lot of “due diligence” went into deciding what time of day to purchase air time, Nicolazzo said. It is airing between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“It’s out of the headlights of the younger demographic, children going to school, dinner hours, stuff like that,” he said.
Nicolazzo said his company plans to buy air time in other states in the months ahead as progress is made on legalizing medical marijuana.
MarijuanaDoctors.com is also preparing to expand to Canada in the coming months. It has prepared a Canadian version of its website that will launch after April 1 when new Health Canada regulations take effect.
Health Canada’s changes to the medicinal marijuana program essentially allow for a free-market industry instead of people growing it for their own use, buying it through Health Canada’s contracted supplier or getting it from a licensed grower who could provide it to two patients at a time.
There are about 37,400 medical marijuana users approved by Health Canada and that number is expected to rise significantly. Health Canada will not regulate the price of medical marijuana and one estimate suggests revenues could be as high as $1.3 billion annually by 2024.
MarijuanaDoctors.com is hoping to jump into the market and is looking for a Canadian partner. Part of its business is providing software that doctors and suppliers could use to verify approved patients when they seek to buy medical marijuana through legal channels.
The landscape is changing in the United States when it comes to pot and, perhaps surprisingly, Nicolazzo isn’t happy about all of the changes, particularly the ones in Colorado and Washington.
“They talk about the war on drugs, what a lot of people don’t talk about is there’s almost a war inside the war on drugs, between organizations that are pro-recreational and pro-medical use,” he said.
Nicolazzo said his group prefers an expansion of medical marijuana laws not recreational use laws, because they are focused on the science of cannabis and its uses for treating illnesses.