Last week CNBC.com reported that Comcast was airing a commercial in New Jersey promoting a service which connects people seeking prescriptions for medical marijuana with doctors. The ad, for MarijuanaDoctors.com was touted as the first pot commercial to air on television. A spokeswoman for Comcast Spotlight, the cable company's ad division, confirmed to CNBC that the commercial had started airing and met the carrier's guidelines. (CNBC is owned by Comcast.)
"Comcast has recently begun airing a spot, approved by our legal team, by MarijuanaDoctors.com in Chicago, New Jersey, and next week in Massachusetts," the cable company said in a statement. "The spot airs from 10pm to 5am, excluding family/children's programming networks. It will only air in states where medical marijuana is legal."
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The commercial seemed groundbreaking not only for its content, but for its style—a shady guy in a back alley selling sushi out of his coat highlighted the dangers of buying legal medical pot on the street.
It turns out it may have been a little too groundbreaking, and the commercial never actually aired. A representative for Medical Cannabis Network, parent company of MarijuanaDoctors.com, claimed that after the ad was approved, and after a press release went out drawing media attention to it, Comcast ruled against airing the commercial. Medical Cannabis Network founder and CEO Jason Draizin said he paid $21,500 for the ad to run 800 times and "has asked for a refund, which has not yet been paid."
Comcast's executive director of corporate communications, Steve Restivo, told CNBC the commercial was never greenlighted to air, and any statement saying otherwise was inaccurate. "All commercials are subject to final review by Comcast Spotlight prior to airing and during that process it was determined that the spot did not meet our guidelines." It's not clear where Draizin's purported $21,500 is, but it's possible Medical Cannabis Network paid it to an ad buyer and not to Comcast directly.
Whether or not a refund is coming, MarijuanaDoctors.com has garnered national media coverage worth far more than airing the actual ads.
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On March 8, the company said that after learning the commercial campaign never actually launched, "Medical Cannabis Network announced it had concluded its campaign in New Jersey, having achieved its objectives of increased awareness among patients and doctors ofits online booking services for medical marijuana appointments." Draizin added: "MarijuanaDoctors.com has been approached directly by several TV stations and cable networks about advertising in Massachusetts. We are reviewing these opportunities with great interest."
He provided no names of specific stations, and it's not clear if the commercial will ever be seen outside of news stories.