At the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, 45,000 runners received a surprise in their official participation kits next to their water and protein bars: an informational pamphlet from one of the race’s sponsors promoting medical marijuana in Illinois.
The educational insert came from the state’s largest legal medical cultivator Cresco Labs, who says this is the first time a mainstream athletic event in the United States has included sponsorship from a medical marijuana group.
“Having the Chicago Marathon promote this program and the use of cannabis as medicine speaks to the normalization and universal acceptance of it,” said Charles Bachtell, Cresco’s Founder, in a press release. “There are thousands of runners that participate as part of the Marathon’s strong commitment to charities and medical cannabis can help those with symptoms from conditions like cancer, AIDS, autism and ALS.”
Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013, though it has one of the most limited programs in the nation. So far, the Illinois Department of Health has only approved about 3,000 patients for the program.
Illinois’ restrictive pilot program for medical marijuana includes a ban on marketing cannabis products directly to the public, but Cresco Labs circumvented the limitation by promoting the state’s medical marijuana program in general, rather than their product, in their “State of Relief” pamphlet.
“State of Relief” described the list of approved conditions and information on how to obtain a medical cannabis card, and is a part of a $1 million dollar advertising push that Cresco Labs announced at the end of September.
Cresco Labs plans to open three cultivation centers in Joliet, Kankakee and Lincoln, Illinois, which they say will make them the largest medical marijuana producer in the state — out of the nine cultivators who passed the state’s rigorous application process.
Currently, though, product will not be ready for sale until November.
Even though 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis, most major sporting organizations have remained compliant with federal law and avoided coming out in support of medical cannabis. In June, the U.S. Open made headlines when they allowed the audience to bring marijuana onto the golf course in Washington State, but the U.S. Open stopped short of allowing a cannabis company to sponsor the event.
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