Smoking kills. And, if you’ve ever traveled to Europe, you’ll notice that the packs of cigarettes over there carry extremely graphic visual warnings that say, “Smoking Kills.” ‘Snuff said. This is ample warning. Just as alcohol advertising always carries the caveat: “Please drink responsibly.”
But now, state regulators are attempting to apply the same kinds of caveats to the increasingly profitable – and legal — cannabis industry. However, officials so far have only come up with generalized heaps of warnings and regulations that some people say are too severe, in what many say is an attempt to make cannabis advertising hard to understand and confusing for the average consumer.
The alcohol industry has tried to drown out cannabis for more than 75 years. Ditto the tobacco industry, which has also tried to snuff out cannabis.
But unlike alcohol and tobacco – which too much of can kill you — cannabis has been medically proven to produce health benefits. And to me, as a Boston marketing expert, I don’t believe that overloading cannabis’ messaging with caveats that scientific studies have not yet supported is a good idea. Do we all really need to see a series of warnings on cannabis ads, about not driving and using cannabis? Of course. I think that most people would agree on that. But cannabis, when used responsibly, is know to produce a variety of positive health effects. Cannabis has been medically proven help to relieve and even prevent epilepsy in children. Many users attest that it produces better sleep, without the typical hangovers caused by prescription sleep medications. Thousands of patients suffering from cancer and other painful diseases swear that it relieves their pain – all without the serious risk of addiction that narcotic pain medications carry. (Can you say “opioid epidemic”?) Numerous other health benefits have been reported from responsible use of cannabis.
The Cannabis Control Commission requires every marijuana advertisement to carry numerous warning messages, including one that says, “Please use responsibly.” They also require other warnings saying that minors and pregnant women should abstain; and those warnings are not unreasonable. The problem is that in their zeal to crush the growing cannabis market, competitors like the alcohol industry are urging public health regulators to require warnings that go far beyond what has been scientifically proven, or what is presently reasonable.
In my opinion, I believe that cannabis advertising should simply be allowed to be sold, marketed and regulated similar to the way that alcohol and tobacco products are. I agree with reasonable warnings as to when not to use cannabis (such as when driving or operating machinery), but I don’t agree with public health officials issuing stifling and histrionic warnings, unless and until scientific testing and studies have demonstrated the need for this. What public health officials need to do, is get these clinical studies moving, so that whatever new discoveries and claims are made about cannabis, are supportted by reputable, responsible, reliable medical and scientific studies. Not submitted by the alcohol industry – which have vested economic interests in killing cannabis use, and not through “scientific studies” that are actually “junk science”.