SACRAMENTO, CA - For the Sacramento News and Review, medical marijuana advertising has been a gold mine. The weekly paper rakes in big profits by selling ads to medical marijuana dispensaries.
Now, the Sacramento Bee has begun publishing similar ads in its Friday Ticket section.
The Bee could charge as much as $3,000 for a full page, color ad in the Ticket section.
According to the company's director of community affairs, The Bee published four pages of medical marijuana ads in the paper's weekly arts and entertainment section.
Just three months ago, the Sacramento News and Review began printing 30 pages of ads in a special 420 section.
According to Jeff vonKaenel, the CEO and president of the free alternative weekly newspaper, the section includes ads from nearly 50 dispensaries. A full page ad goes for about $2,000.
"It has been very lucrative," vonKaenel said. "We've been making tens of thousands of dollars a week on that."
At a time when many newspapers are scaling back staff, The Sacramento News and Review said it was able to hire more reporters and expand its distribution largely because of medical marijuana ad sales.
The Sacramento Bee's Director of Community Affairs Pam Dinsmore said the ads will help their readers.
"It's not really about the cost (or money)," Dinsmore said. "It's a place for our readers to go if they need medical marijuana."
Dinsmore explained that SacramentoBee.com has included medical marijuana ads online for several years. She said the paper began publishing the ads in its print edition after a committee discussed and debated the issue.
"This is something that we are doing for our customers," Dinsmore said. "It is not something we solicited. It's something that we're doing because we have been asked to by the advertisers."
Reactions to the Bee's decision are mixed.
One Love Wellness currently advertises in SNR's 420 section and on two local tv stations. It said the Bee's move to include medical marijuana advertising is promising.
"I think it's great because it'll let more people know about the movement of what's going on," One Love Wellness' Noelle Alvelais said. "We want to get them off prescription drugs and help them find alternative ways to relieve their pain."
J Street Wellness wonders why the change in the Bee's position.
"For a while, they rejected medical all together," said J Street Wellness Manager Ron Mullins. "It was how everyday people are going to react to this being in the paper. Whether they got over that fear or the numbers were too great for them to say 'no,' maybe it's both."
By Suzanne Phan, email@example.com