First Medical Marijuana Ad to Air

First Medical Marijuana Ad to Air

What could be the first television ad related to medical marijuana will air on Comcast cable channels across Massachusetts next month and has already drawn criticism on the South Shore.

The 1-minute TV ad for a New York-based company called MarijuanaDoctors.Com is aimed at potential patients, encouraging them to log on to its website to find physicians who can legally prescribe the drug.

Jason Draizin, founder and CEO of MarijuanaDoctors.com, said some other television networks balked at the prospect of airing his ad, but not Comcast, which is the largest cable operator in the country.

“They were happy to do business with us,” said Draizin.

The ad opens with a street dealer, standing near a Dumpster in an empty lot, but the product he’s pushing isn’t marijuana, but sushi.

“Yo, you want sushi? I got the best sushi,” he says.

Then a narrator’s voice is heard: “You wouldn’t buy your sushi from this guy, so why would you buy your marijuana from him?”

Lyn Frano, Weymouth’s drug abuse prevention coordinator, called the ad misleading after watching the ad for the first time Monday evening via the company’s website.

“They’re really targeting people who are already using the drug illicitly,” she said. “They never talk about the medical purposes.”

An estimated 120,000 patients diagnosed with debilitating diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease are expected to use the 20 dispensaries that were recently approved by the state Department of Public Health.

Quincy, Brockton, Plymouth and Taunton will host marijuana dispensaries, which are expected to open later this summer or fall.

The cable TV ads will air over a two-week period later in April, said Draizin, who bought 200 ads for $13,000.

Melissa Kennedy, a Comcast spokeswoman, said the medical marijuana advertisement would air only between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not on any channels with children’s programming.

Kathie Olfson, a health educator at Adams Middle School in Weymouth, viewed the adand said she felt it was geared to younger people, even high-school-aged viewers.

Olfson and Frano both criticized the ad for appealing to “an immature audience.”

Frano added: “The drug ads always say things about side effects, but this doesn’t say any of that.”

But Jessie Quintero Johnson, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston who specializes in health communication, viewed the ad as an effective step toward correcting misconceptions about medical marijuana.

“This is a great example of the producer of the ad trying to create an association with credibility,” she said. “ This is a good step but it will require a whole series of targeted messages to shape public perceptions.”

Page 2 of 2 – Draizin said his site has signed up only three physicians so far in Massachusetts. One of them is a company based in Quincy, MedMar Medical, on School Street.

MedMar Medical did not answer its telephone Monday, but its website says “MedMar Medical was formed to allow qualified patients to obtain a Letter of Recommendation from a physician, and ultimately to be able to secure a state DPH Medical Marijuana Card when they are issued.”

Chris Burrell is at cburrell@ledger.com or follow him on Twitter @Burrell_Ledger.

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