The Cannabis Media Council (CMC) is a first-of-its-kind trade association on a mission to deprogram the war on plants and people. Aiming to leverage the power of advertising to advocate for mainstream awareness of cannabis, the Council recently launched its inaugural campaign: I’m High Right Now. PAX is proud to be a Visionary Donor, and had the chance to catch up with Co-Founder Joyce Cenali recently to hear more about the Council’s aspiration to be the ‘Got Milk’ of our industry and why they believe this is the moment to change minds about cannabis.
The United States’ history with the plant is complex. Prior to the 1930s, and the beginnings of the censorship and criminalization that grew into the war on drugs, hemp was one of the predominant crops in America. Dating back to the early 1600s, every landowner was required to produce it and “there was a time when you could even pay your taxes with hemp,” Joyce shared. “But William Randolph Hearst, alongside Harry Anslinger, who was the head of the Bureau of Narcotics at the time, were able to change the narrative in one fell swoop with the passage of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act and the subsequent stigmatization of the plant.”
Cenali has been in the cannabis industry for more than a decade, as an investor, an advisor, a cultivator, an advocate and a longtime consumer, and she’s seen a lot of changes as the industry has transitioned from prohibition to medical to adult use. “It’s gotten to a point where, in order for cannabis companies to adopt a traditional CPG model, they need access to two things: traditional financial services and traditional media. We can't continue to play this ‘always have to earn media game.’ We have to be able to advertise just as a traditional CPG can.” As CMC works to encourage more publishers to allow cannabis advertising, they announced an early partnership with none other than Hearst Media. That was not by accident according to Joyce, “We realized that Hearst was one of the companies that was actually starting to consider cannabis advertising, which takes us full circle from the origin story of the initial censorship.”
In January, CMC launched its first campaign — a provocative concept that playfully challenges cannabis stereotypes and aims to educate on how real people consume cannabis. The campaign’s name, “I’m High Right Now,” was loosely inspired by a surprising viral moment. “Some of you surely have seen the David Letterman interview with Kevin Durant, where he was just like, ‘I’m high right now,’” Joyce laughed. “That interview was such an amazing moment. How many times have we all sort of thought that?!”
But despite its humorous tone, the campaign takes its responsibility to educate seriously and is targeting those who were most indoctrinated with propagandist messaging — our elders and the baby boomer population. As Joyce explained, “The baby boomer category is looking to cannabis to help improve their lives, help them sleep, help their aches and pains. The goal is to tackle the War on Drugs and its misperceptions head on. You'll see a lot of terminology like “gateway” and “dirtbag” that’s evocative, but not very subscripted.” The campaign seeks to reclaim certain terms such as “high,” a weaponized and stigmatized word in order to expand the definition to living a life that is elevated, euphoric, joyful, uplifting and beyond, through everyday practices such as those illustrated in the ad campaign: golfing, gardening, walking, and sex.
“One major thing we really all want to honor is our elders. There are a lot of baby boomers that consume cannabis. They have a lot of purchasing power, but they're also the ones carving the holiday turkey. So hopefully this will present an opportunity for that Thanksgiving conversation to be flipped,” mused Cenali. “Let's help to normalize cannabis for baby boomers by showing them that their lives will be the same, but better.”
“I’m High Right Now” is currently running on CTPost.com with additional placements in SFGate, SF Chronicle, and Vanity Fair forthcoming throughout the Hearst Media and 46 Mile, a Hearst Agency, networks. The campaign was made possible with support from the Cannabis Media Council’s Visionary Donors and media partners including Hearst Media, 46 Mile, Surfside, PAX, Etain Health, NABIS, and additional anonymous donors. Individuals, media companies, and corporations who want to support the Cannabis Media Council’s mission, expand reach of this current campaign, and fund future campaigns can make tax-exempt donations here or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more here.