Meanwhile, an ad on page 17 of Sunday's Times struck a decidedly
different tone about marijuana. It was for Leafly, the Yelp for information about
legal cannabis. And the ad congratulated New Yorkers on the state's
adoption of the Compassionate Care Act, which allows medical
marijuana, as well as urging readers to "Just Say Know."
The for-profit, Seattle-based Leafly is a website and mobile app
that aims to help marijuana users, whether recreational or medical,
find information about strains of cannabis as well as the
dispensaries and retail outlets that sell them. There is, for
instance, information on the NYC
Diesel strain of cannabis, including locations in Colorado,
Washington, California and Oregon where it can be bought. A
review gives NYC Diesel five stars and says, "Amazing diesel
flavor, very nice head high and a sweet smell, I feel too stoned to
write a proper review."
Leafly, which was founded in 2010, claims more than four million
monthly visitors to its website and mobile app, which has been
downloaded 1.6 million times, according to the company. Privateer
Holdings, a private equity firm that invests in the legal cannabis
industry, bought Leafly in 2011.
"It's history in the making," Nathan Peterson, Leafly's
marketing director, said. "A cannabis company running an ad in The
New York Times was unimaginable a few years ago and another sign
that the Berlin Wall of prohibition is coming down." A full-page
black and white ad in Sunday's Times costs about $180,000. Leafly's
ad was in color, which can cost extra. A spokeswoman for Leafly
would not confirm whether the company paid this amount. Leafly is
also running ads on the Times' website that cost about another
$15,000, according to Mr. Peterson.
Leafly claims it's the first "cannabis company" to run a
full-page ad in the Times, although ads for advocacy groups such as
the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or
NORML, and the Drug Policy Alliance have appeared in the paper.
A spokeswoman for the Times could not say whether Leafly's ad
was, in fact, the first from a for-profit cannabis company to run
in the paper. "This may be the first non-advocacy ad that has run,"
the spokeswoman said. But the paper doesn't track advertisements by
subject and can't definitively confirm the claim, she said.
"For us to go out with an ad to reach the medical cannabis
patient," Mr. Peterson added, "we couldn't imagine a better partner
than The New York Times, which is America's publication of
Ad revenue at The New York Times Co. fell 4.1% during the second
quarter, with sagging print sales leading the decline. The
company's overall revenue was off 0.6% to $388.7 million.
Last Sunday, the Times editorial board
called for the U.S. government to repeal its prohibition of
marijuana and instead leave decisions about marijuana up to the
"There are no perfect answers to people's legitimate concerns
about marijuana use," the editorial said. "But neither are there
such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every
level -- health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order
issues -- the balance falls squarely on the side of national
legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow
recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs -- at
the state level."
The timing of the editorial and the Leafly ad is purely
coincidence, said Scott Lowry, Leafly's brand manager. "We decided
to place this ad, and started working on it, when the Compassionate
Care Act was in legislation," he said.
"The timing was definitely a good match," Mr. Peterson added.
"The Times running that piece was extremely important to the entire
cannabis movement in U.S., but we had been planning it for the last
Last month, New York became the 23rd state to allow medical
marijuana, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Compassionate
Care Act. This year, Colorado and Washington became the first
states to allow recreational cannabis use.
In Colorado, the move sparked a boom in the sale of legal weed,
didn't lead to an explosion in ad sales for local media, TV
stations and newspaper execs told Ad Age. And its unlikely the
Compassionate Care Act will trigger an advertising rush in New York
-- at least not yet. The state has 18 months to issue regulations
and licenses to companies to grow and distribute medical marijuana,
though Gov. Cuomo last week
called up state lawmakers to expedite the process.
Leafly may ramp up its marketing efforts when dispensaries begin
opening in New York and it can show people in the state where to
buy legal cannabis, according to Mr. Peterson.