Opioids From a Vending Machine? Actually, It’s Selling a New Way to Look at Marijuana

Chicago pop-up offers an alternative for pain management

Dispensing hope for opioid addiction in Chicago.
Cresco Labs

In 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there was a 10 percent national increase in overdose deaths due to opioids. In Illinois, the increase was even higher, at more than 13 percent.

Medical marijuana advocates have argued that pot is a safer alternative to opioids when it comes to pain management and should be considered as part of the solution in stemming the deadly epidemic.

To that end, a vending machine recently made its way through Chicago to dispense not a new kind of prescription, but educational notes in praise of marijuana.

Created by Chicago-based agency Tom, Dick & Harry Creative Co., the pop-up was designed to help medical cannabis company Cresco Labs spread awareness of its Opioid Prescription Exchange program (COPE), which encourages patients to consider marijuana over opioid prescriptions when it comes to managing pain.

The stunt hit the streets just one day after Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a new law that allows medical marijuana to be used as a replacement for opioid pain medication.

Those who passed by the vending machine, which was situated downtown near offices of the Illinois state government, were greeted with a selection of faux opioid prescription bottles to choose from. Covered with “Got pain? Get relief!” messaging, the attention-grabbing machine served to remind people just how easy it is to become addicted to pain pill prescriptions.

But instead of dispensing the faux prescriptions, the pop-up gave out medical cannabis bottles (sans marijuana) that each contained a note about COPE (below).

In addition to the vending machine, the activation included a 20-foot-long “NoBituaries” board that featured the stories of people who have fought and won the opioid battle by turning to medical marijuana. For example, one “NoBituary” told the story of 42-year-old Anthony Taylor, who treated his cancer-related pain with medical cannabis and is currently in remission.

“The creativity and attention-getting tactics behind our COPE campaign will help build awareness about using medical cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids in a very untraditional way,” said Charlie Bachtell, CEO of Cresco Labs.  “The awareness this campaign will create will ultimately improve the quality of life for someone who has been suffering with pain.”

Tom, Dick & Harry Creative Co. supplemented the stunt with a COPE landing page and social media campaign that utilizes the hashtag #NOpioid, which encourages people to tell their own personal stories of replacing opioids with medical cannabis.

“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on thousands of Illinois families, and we’re proud of our role in helping Cresco Labs elevate the awareness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids,” said Greg Reifel, managing partner of Tom, Dick & Harry Creative Co.


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