Pubdate: Wed, 23 Mar 2016
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2016 Star Tribune
Author: Jennifer Brooks


Google Considers Cannabis Dangerous, Unacceptable.

A Minnesota-based medical marijuana company says Google is blocking 
its attempts to advertise online.

Vireo, the parent company of Minnesota Medical Solutions, tried to 
take out a series of online ads in New York, where it operates four 
clinics and is one of several companies chosen by that state to grow 
and manufacture medical cannabis. Each time, Google rejected the ads, 
citing its policy against promoting "dangerous products or services."

On Monday, the company expanded its online advertising efforts to 
include the two Minnesota clinics operated by Minnesota Medical 
Solutions. Enrollment in Minnesota's medical cannabis program remains 
relatively low - 1,133 patients since legalization last July. But 
Vireo announced that it would also attempt to place 
"Minnesota-targeted Google ads to make it easier for Minnesota 
patients to learn about using our medicines."

Google did not respond to calls and e-mail inquiriesTuesday, but the 
company draws a line between acceptable and unacceptable online 
advertisements: "We want to help keep people safe both online and 
offline, so we don't allow the promotion of some products or services 
that cause damage, harm, or injury," the guidelines begin. The list 
of products Google will not advertise runs from explosives to tobacco 
to "recreational drugs and drug-related equipment."

Dr. Kyle Kingsley, founder and CEO of MinnMed and Vireo, argues that 
medical marijuana is a pharmaceutical, and should be advertised 
online just like other treatments for epilepsy, cancer or glaucoma. 
Almost half of all states have legalized cannabis for medical use, 
but the federal government still classifies it as an illegal, 
dangerous drug with no recognized medical value, and Google's ad 
policies appear to follow suit.

"As a physician, it's hard to understand why Google willingly accepts 
ads that promote highly addictive painkillers, like OxyContin, that 
are responsible for thousands of deaths each year, but knowingly 
rejects medical cannabis ads that could, in many cases, be a 
significantly safer therapeutic option for patients," Kingsley said 
in a statement.

He added: "I think it is going to be challenging for Google to 
explain why it is comfortable accepting advertisements from companies 
that promote the sale of alcohol, knives, hatchets and infidelity, 
but is uncomfortable accepting ads from medical cannabis companies. 
We don't live in a black-andwhite world, and Google ought to adopt 
more thoughtful and nuanced advertising policies."

While 23 states have legalized medical marijuana, and four states 
have legalized its recreational use, the federal ban has made it 
difficult for cannabis companies to operate like regular businesses. 
Banks and credit card companies are reluctant to do business with 
companies that sell a banned federal substance. Cannabis companies 
also miss out on tax breaks and face constant scrutiny from state and 
federal law enforcement.

Minnesota's medical cannabis program is one of the most tightly 
regulated in the nation. The state strictly limits who can use 
medical marijuana, who can sell it, and in what form.

Only two companies - MinnMed and LeafLine Labs - can grow, refine and 
sell cannabis. The product can only be sold in pills and liquids. 
Smoking the raw plant form remains illegal.

Currently, the state has just three clinics, although the number will 
expand to eight by this summer. Only patients with one of a limited 
number of serious illnesses can register with the state to buy 
medical cannabis, although the program will expand in August to 
include patients suffering from intractable pain - a move that could 
potentially bring in thousands of new customers.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Google had not responded to MinnMed's request.
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