Advertising Cannabis Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze directs short film depicting the history and benefits of cannabis


By Kyle O'Brien | Creative Works Editor

February 25, 2019 | 6 min read

LA-based cannabis company MedMen has tapped famed director Spike Jonze to film its latest commercial campaign. The two-minute spot follows the tumultuous history of weed and how it now stands to benefit society.

George Washington hemp farm

George Washington hemp farm

MedMen also got Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams to star in the film. The ad furthers MedMen’s vision where legalized and regulated cannabis creates a safer, healthier and happier world.

The commercial chronicles society’s evolving perceptions of the plant, from pre-prohibition to the modern, legal industry of today. It starts in Colonial days, as we learn that George Washington had a hemp farm, then runs up to the anti-pot propaganda film, Reefer Madness and shows how the plant was criminalized. ‘The New Normal’ takes the audience on a journey through the illegal past of weed and looks to a hopeful view for the future now that it is legal in many states, including California.

Jonze and Williams collaborated to ensure that much of the commercial’s cast and crew had a personal real-life connection to the plant including military veterans who use cannabis to treat their PTSD, a former NFL football player who uses it as a substitute for opioids, victims of racial profiling and those who work in the emerging legal cannabis industry.

The creative team behind the project includes actor Williams, Jonze, Academy-Award nominated cinematographer Bradford Young and production designer James Chinlund, who is currently working on the upcoming Lion King movie.

MedMen launched a 360-degree approach to The New Normal campaign, which includes spots on connected TV networks, out-of-home assets, print ads (including national ad placements), Sirius XM, native integrations with Complex, podcasts and terrestrial radio, digital, pre-roll and programmatic ads. MedMen will also be advertising for the first time in hundreds of movie theaters across California, Nevada and Michigan.

Williams, who also co-wrote the film with Jonze, will appear on the cover of Ember, volume 4, MedMen’s in-house magazine. The magazine will be free with purchase at every MedMen store and will also be distributed at Barnes & Noble bookstores nationwide and select boutiques, hotels and restaurants.

Jesse Williams for MedMen

In addition to the commercial, Jonze is creating a short documentary with filmmaker Molly Schiot that was shot on set and explores the themes of the short film in more detail.

It was important to all involved to tell the stories of cast members who all have their own relationships with cannabis including veterans who have found cannabis as a way to treat themselves, former law enforcement, formerly incarcerated drug offenders and young entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry.

Williams commented: “The highly selective criminalization of one plant, with flagrantly harsher punishments for one community, must be acknowledged and left behind for something more reasonable, realistic and fair. It’s pretty clear that Americans are ready to exist beyond a few inherited hypocrisies. We deserve the opportunity to make this right. We can do, and feel, better.”

Added Jonze: “When I read the premise about telling the story of the history of cannabis and our country, there was something that moved me about it. I apologize for using such a 2010’s word, but it felt healing to me. I didn’t know much about the specifics of the history, but as I learned about it, I felt like it was a story of a very dysfunctional couple. The relationship started in such a healthy place, with even our Founding Fathers having hemp farms, but it got so tragically messed up in the 80 years of prohibition that we couldn’t see straight. It was shocking to just sit in all the stories of so many people and so many lives that were unfairly hurt by the prohibition and the fear that was stoked by it, especially people of color. And it wasn’t just their lives, it was their families, too. And now we are starting to come out of it. We are at that point in a relationship where a couple is calming down after a fight and realizing how irrational they were and trying to make amends. I've never been into pot much or a huge advocate for legalization, but I’ve always supported it because it seemed absurd for the reasons we all know. And it always felt inevitable. But getting to do this, I got to learn the bigger picture of the whole story. I feel so hopeful, but the thing that sticks with me and upsets me is that there are still so many people that are still locked up for this plant that is now legal in so many places. That doesn’t make sense.”

Said Adam Bierman, chief executive officer and co-founder of MedMen: “Cannabis is part of our country’s history. We’ve moved away from the propaganda of the past and into a world where cannabis is the new normal. We want this commercial to educate and embolden in equal measures. This is our opportunity to make a statement on a national stage."

MedMen: The New Normal by Mekanism

By MedMen

Overall Rating 5/5

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Advertising Cannabis Spike Jonze

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The New Normal is here. Welcome to the New Normal. It begins with a 120-second journey through America's complex history with cannabis legalization.

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