By Jack Daniel
As terribly predictable April Fool’s Day jokes rang out everywhere you looked yesterday, both online and off, somewhere around a million motorists and pedestrians passing through Times Square in midtown Manhattan probably wondered if they were getting fooled with when they saw the first ever pro-marijuana advertisement to ever be displayed in the historic mecca of marketing.
Leave it to Weedmaps to blaze the trail straight into New York City this week, as they have been doing for years with their ever-innovative cannabis tracking and 420-friendly social media based website atwww.weedmaps.com
The 10-second ad, which is being run sporadically over the course of 18 hours each day for 61 days, is featured on a 20×26 foot digital billboard, right alongside the same multimillion dollar corporate players that dominate the Square on the daily.
It is simple and friendly, showcasing the newly branded signature Weedmaps-teal background, with the words “High, NYC” in bold, white lettering. On the digital billboard, those words then fade into the Weedmaps “smiley face” logo, and the hashtag #highnyc and a link to the new Weedmaps New York resource page.
Justin Hartfield, CEO of Weedmaps, says that the ad is a direct shot at pot prohibition in New York, telling the Daily News, “Many New Yorkers who make the city great can potentially be taken to jail for this. There’s a call of action on the ad. It’s a way to kind of say to New Yorkers that it’s time to legalize.”
Aaron Houston is a policy advisor for Weedmaps and he likes what he is seeing happening across the country when it comes to reforming our antiquated laws on weed. Yet despite the major strides taken in Colorado and Washington, and the progress with medical marijuana acceptance in nearly two dozen other states, New York still lags behind the curve.
By Weedmaps’ estimates, New York’s Compassionate Care Act, had it passed, would have placed roughly 20 medical marijuana facilities in the state’s hospitals this year. But as Houston notes, even that would leave untold numbers of marijuana users – medical or otherwise – resorting to the black market for their bud.
Houston says he hears the confessionals and horror stories about pot prohibition all too often. He told the Daily News, “Our company strongly believes that marijuana prohibition ruins the lives of countless New Yorkers every year.”
Regarding the NYC-themed website, he added, “We’re trying to do it in a really professional, highbrow manner. It’s not just stoners. It’s professional people, too. This is about liberty.”
The Weedmaps website was launched in 2008 as a totally innovative dispensary locating service featuring a very user-friendly map overlay along with menu listings, coupons, reviews, and lots of social media themed side-sites for those looking to connect with like-minded stoners on the web.
Since its inception, the site has exploded in growth year after year, and had over 2.7 million visitors in March of this year alone. Mason Tvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project, says that such growth is to be expected by the industry leader, as the industry itself continues to boom.
They’re no fools over at Weedmaps, and they realize that New York is an untapped gold mine once the tide does turn in favor of cannabis reform. For that reason, they have launched an internet campaign aimed directly at New Yorkers, and those interested in where the state stands with its pot laws. “In our dream world, there would be a dispensary on every corner right next to NYC’s bodegas. We’re here to help make that pipe dream a reality,” they state on the homepage of the highly informational site.
Until April Fool’s Day 2014, you couldn’t just walk down the street and see an ad for weed, like you could for alcohol or cigarettes. Those have flashed across billboards in New York’s Times Square for decades without controversy.
Thanks to Justin Hartfield and Weedmaps, we are one legitimate step closer to enjoying that same acceptance with cannabis.