In collaboration with cannabis dispensary retailer MedMen, director Spike Jonze released a two-minute commercial starring Jesse Williams that spans the history of marijuana in America. The ad covers George Washington’s hemp fields, the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, as well as “Reefer Madness” and the racial injustice that prohibition has wrought.
The ad is designed to spur the “normalization of cannabis,” MedMen CMO David Dancer explained to AdWeek. The company actually vies the two-minute video as more of a “statement” than a commercial.
“We had a desire to create a commercial with a profound message,” Dancer said. “Our core value is around ensuring that people can lead safe, happy, healthy lives with cannabis being a part of it.”
Williams jumped at the opportunity to work with Jonze, whom Williams calls a “genius,” but also the opportunity to “have an impact on culture; we are taking that responsibility seriously and trying to strip some of the mythology around it, via a history lesson,” Williams said in an interview.
“I think a connective thread needs to be made, because the truth is, in middle-income white America, [cannabis] is already pretty normal: it’s the joke in every single coming-of-age movie, from Animal House to Superbad. White people know their kids smoke weed … They’re selling it, and buying it, but it’s not that big of a deal, because they’re human beings with potential in their lives, and that’s okay,” Williams said.
“But when black and brown folks do it, we’re thrown in cages for the rest of our lives, shot in the street, and then it’s justified in the news because someone might have had some marijuana in their system,” he added.
The commercial also serves as much-needed good publicity for MedMen, which faces multiple lawsuits at the moment. One of the more prominent lawsuits is from former CFO James Parker, who alleged wrongful termination from the company and brought to light unsavory behavior and potential racism from the company. Parker’s lawsuit prompted serious backlash, including the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association severing ties with the company.
You can catch the commercial across digital spaces, as well spots on connected TV networks (including Bravo, CBS Sports Network, Oxygen, MSNBC, Lifetime and Food Network). MedMen also announced the ad will be shown in movie theaters in Nevada, California, and Michigan.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the commercial appearing on TV channels. “The commercial was ultimately not allowed on select networks to which it was submitted due to FCC requirements and therefore is not appearing on TV,” a MedMen representative stated.