Bella Thorne is not shy about her affinity for marijuana. The actress and social media star is perhaps one of the biggest influencers online, just below the likes of the Kardashian clan and the Hadid sisters. And she’s known to post on Instagram about her love of cannabis.
This perhaps explains why Lowell Herb Co., one of the biggest cannabis brands in California, tapped Thorne for a commercial aimed at the Oscars. Lowell says the ad, which was rejected by ABC, would’ve cost around $2 million to air during the telecast, similar to the cost of a Super Bowl commercial. The network cited a zero-tolerance policy on cannabis, though it’s worth noting that Jimmy Kimmel is known for frequent references and explorations to cannabis culture.
“We chose to air the ad during the Academy Awards, which is a quintessential California moment, using Hollywood talent and fans of the Lowell brand,” Lowell Herb Co CEO David Elias said in a statement. “As a leader in the cannabis industry, we are determined to keep pushing for the normalization of the cannabis industry and cannabis consumption.”
This is another notable example of a cannabis company creating a commercial for a major television event, but ultimately getting rejected by TV networks. Acreage Holdings tried a similar strategy revolving around this year’s Super Bowl, but was denied by CBS. Instead, like Lowell Herb’s Oscars commercial, the ousted ad ended up on YouTube, and ultimately probably garnered more media attention for its exclusion. (It’s worth noting that the ad was prohibited from buying local ad time in California as well as nationally.)
Because cannabis remains federally illegal and is classified as a Schedule I drug, cannabis ads can’t legally run on most advertising platforms. These cannabis companies are almost certainly aware of this. But they’re getting the last laugh because these commercials have smartly positioned themselves as refutations from old, fussy media executives, drawing (free) media attention from less traditional websites like ours. You can’t blame Lowell Herb, or Acreage Hodlings or MedMen for that matter, trying to earn some good publicity.
That said, it clearly raises your company’s profile to have Bella Thorne as a spokesperson. “I’m proud to be featured in Lowell Herb Co.’s first TV commercial,” Thorne said in a statement. “I’m a huge supporter of how they treat their company from the inside out, and particularly their social equity program that supplies jobs for recently pardoned non-violent offenders of cannabis-related offenses. They aren’t just a ‘weed’ company, they’re helping make a change in people’s lives. It’s a shame that, that message won’t be televised….for now.”
One day soon cannabis ads might play alongside beer commercials on TV. Until then, however, cannabis will just have to settle for YouTube.