Rejection, even the fear of rejection, can stop people in their tracks. I have never in my life been rejected and felt good about it. Until 2019. And it took the Super Bowl to do it. My husband and I moved from our home state of Oklahoma to Colorado in 2013. Our son was dying, and in an effort to save Austin, who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, the catastrophic form of epilepsy, we sold all we could, quit our jobs, left our friends and family and our beloved home state, hoping, on a wing and a prayer, that a plant — doctors called it a weed — would save our son.
Austin had been prescribed varying pharmaceuticals with hideous side effects. We were in the hospital with Austin on life support at least once a year. During our last lengthy stay, the pharmaceuticals had begun shutting down his organs. The doctors gave Austin two years to live because of the organ damage, if, they said, “the seizures didn’t take him first.”
In January 2019, I received several phone calls from people I respect in the cannabis industry about a documentary crew wanting to talk to families who had children that used cannabis as a medicine.Amy Dawn Bourlon-Hilterbran
Fast forward to 2021, and Austin is still alive, happier and enjoying a better quality of life. As a cannabis patient (THC, whole plant, edibles, suppositories, CBN, THCA), he is no longer on pharmaceuticals, and the damage to his kidneys and liver has receded. Most importantly, we live with days, weeks, sometimes months, with no seizures at all. When we have to use his cannabis rescue meds, we don’t have to take Austin to the hospital.
Our family has appeared before local, state and federal officials, spoken and counseled with medical professionals and scientists on the effectiveness of cannabis for our son. We have fought so that other parents wouldn’t have to go through what we went through just to legally access a plant for their child.
Austin has become a significant influencer when it comes to ending cannabis prohibition and the stigmas around pediatric medical marijuana patients. His story is inspiring, authentic and genuine, and our cannabis journey has been very raw, very real, and we know it has made a difference, changed some minds and hearts and helped to change laws.
In January 2019, I received several phone calls from people I respect in the cannabis industry about a documentary crew wanting to talk to families who had children that used cannabis as a medicine. A few phone calls later, and the crew asked if we would be willing to let them film us for a few days. They flew in from the East Coast and came over to our house for bison chili and steaks and answer our questions about the project.
It was fun, and they made a good impression. That’s when the non-disclosure agreement came out. We signed it and found out that one of the gentlemen who was there, a really cool, laid-back guy, was the CMO of Acreage Holdings, the largest cannabis company on the planet at the time, and that the “documentary” was actually a PSA ad commercial that would air Feb. 3 during Super Bowl LIII.
It took them telling us a few times before it sank in. We were being included in ads that asked legislators to legalize cannabis that would air during the upcoming Super Bowl? And Acreage Holdings was willing to fund the production of the ad and the $10 million price tag to air it during the big game? Where we come from, we call that “Big Time.”
The filming went quickly. Two days after they arrived, everyone was back on the planes heading home, the production was almost completed, and final edits were taking place over the weekend so they could submit the ads to CBS that Monday.
And then we waited. Were we going to see ourselves during the Big Game?
So when we got the call from the CMO of Acreage Holdings telling us that CBS had rejected the PSA ad, it was deflating, to say the least, but it didn’t feel that horrible. Not many people can say they were in a Super Bowl commercial — even one that was rejected.
And then, just one day later, it got even better. Acreage Holdings released the ads to the public along with news of the network’s rejection. Within four days, the ad had 1.4 billion impressions. News sources, homegrown media, bloggers, late-night comedians, NFL football players, musicians, artists, millionaires and billionaires were all talking about the “Super Bowl medical marijuana ad that was rejected.” CBS, which had rejected the ad, even did a story on the rejection. We found that very humorous.
A simple, black & white video advertisement that merely shared experiences of success with cannabis medication, respectfully urged US leaders and legislators to end cannabis prohibition and stop the needless incarceration of cannabis consumers and patients was, undoubtedly, the loudest our voice had ever been. And though it was rejected, it still reached more people than ever before.
Since then, Americans voted in Illinois, New Jersey, Vermont, Montana, Arizona, and South Dakota to legalize recreational cannabis consumption, and voters in Mississippi and South Dakota passed the legalization of medical marijuana.
The rejected Super Bowl LIII medical marijuana ad has now been seen by more people than viewers of the last 20 Super Bowls — combined. We’ll take that kind of rejection — any day.
See the rejected Super Bowl ad here: