An advertising campaign that promotes cannabis as a medicine has attracted a barrage of complaints and criticisms from people. Some have even filed formal complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Helius Therapeutics put up billboard ads that say “Cannabis is medicine” after medical cannabis was legalized in the country last week. The licensed medical cannabis company launched its advertising campaign as part of its plan to “rebrand” cannabis.
However, it looks like a lot of people are not happy about it.
Why the complaints?
According to Hilary Souter of the ASA, so far, three people had already logged formal complaints regarding the billboards.
She explained that people are expressing concern over the legality of promoting medical cannabis. People are also raising concern about the billboards being visible to children.
Souter said the fact that the campaign chose billboard as a medium means that it has an unrestricted audience.
It’s about the children!
It can’t be said that those who complained about the billboards are anti-cannabis, though.
In fact, according to one commenter on the Stuff news site, he complained to the ASA even if he uses cannabis himself. This is because he was worried that children would get the wrong idea about weed.
This commenter further wrote that cannabis derivatives and parts of the plant can be used for medicinal purposes, but there are other things that go on with smoking pot that are far from ideal, like anxiety, depression, and psychosis among certain users.
A campaign for access
Meanwhile, Katy Thomas, a blogger whose son needs marijuana to manage his life-threatening seizures, said that she is pleased to be a part of Helius Therapeutics’ public awareness campaign. According to her, their family had just celebrated a year without spending a night at the hospital due to her four-year-old son’s rare form of epilepsy.
Thomas pointed out that the biggest issue for any medical cannabis patient is not just literal access or getting a medical professional to prescribe it to you, but also access around funding. She explained that medical cannabis is not currently funded, which is the reason why the price is very prohibitive.
Thomas added that she is hoping that local market and government funding will soon bring down the prices of medical cannabis for New Zealand patients. Furthermore, the idea that there is a local producer not only increases the number of products that are made available to patients, but it will also reduce the final price because there is no more need to add shipping cost or transport fees.
Helius speaks out
Paul Manning, the executive director of Helius Therapeutics, said that the campaign was designed to heighten public awareness and remove the stigma of using marijuana for medical purposes.
It will be everyday people who use medicinal marijuana, which will become a mainstream product soon.
Helius has no medical cannabis products to sell as of now because the regulations are still being drawn up. Manning said that their current focus is on research and education.
As for the ASA complaints, Manning believes it was a “stretch” to suggest that a billboard ad is going to encourage children to start smoking pot.
Manning again stressed out that they are a Kiwi start-up company researching and developing health products -– products that the Parliament and an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders now support. They are about encouraging education and creating safe and regulated medicinal products that will soon become available for hundreds of thousands of sick people who desperately need them.