Marijuana milestones keep piling up. Now the first ad

Leafly, a Seattle-based provider of cannabis information, took out what it is calling the first marijuana ad in a mainstream paper, the New York Times.

There are so many firsts and so little time to talk about them all in the world of legalized marijuana.

There’s the first state to sell marijuana in licensed retail stores (Colorado, Jan. 1). The first retail store to open in Seattle (Cannabis City, July 8, at “high noon”). The first museum to exhibit the first marijuana bought legally in Seattle by Cannabis City’s first customer (Museum of History and Industry, bud donated by Deb Greene).

And now comes the self-proclaimed first advertisement by a legally operating cannabis company in a major, mainstream newspaper. That would be Leafly, the New York Times, in this Sunday’s national edition.

Seattle-based Leafly purchased the full-page ad on the heels of New York state’s passage in June of the Compassionate Care Act, which establishes the Empire State’s first medical marijuana program, albeit a highly regulated one.


When Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the act in July, New York became the 23rd state to allow patients access to what advocates consider a miracle drug and opponents believe is a scourge. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, back in 1996.

Leafly describes itself as the “world’s largest cannabis information resource for patients and consumers” and has websites in English, Spanish and French. Its four-color ad, with the slogan “Just Say Know,” accomplishes several tasks.

First and foremost, it advertises its services: “From learning about the right products and strains for you, to finding trusted clinics and dispensaries nearby, we’ll be here to help.” Secondly, it congratulates New York on its better-late-than-never progress.

And finally, it seeks to transform marijuana’s image from controlled substance to legitimate, upper-middle-class option. Nobody’s having any fun in the ad, and that’s the point.

The image is a brownstone on a preternaturally clean city street. (Really? New York City?) A well-dressed man stands at the top of the steps, holding a newspaper, waiting at the door. On the sidewalk is a woman in snazzy running clothes, jogging along without stepping in any gum.

“Ian,” the ad tells us, “chose an indica cannabis strain to relieve his MS symptoms.” And Molly? She “preferred a sativa cannabis ... while fighting cancer.”

“It was important for us to make sure that it was done right, from a professional perspective, and done in a way that didn’t embrace the ubiquitous cliches,” said Brendan Kennedy, Leafly’s president and chief executive, who considers the company and the ad “pioneers.”

That means “no reefer madness. Not every brand needs to be a black and green logo with pot leaves all over it,” he said. “No guy in a smoke filled room. No nurse in a bikini like you see on Venice Beach.”


Kennedy said the ad has been in the works for the last 18 months, from around the time Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The campaign was put on the back burner at least once but took on new life after New York embraced medicinal pot.

“This is not a counter culture product,” Kennedy said. “It’s a mainstream product consumed by mainstream Americans. They’re just like you, and they’re just like me.”

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