Who’s to Blame for the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis’ Stalled MBTA Ad Campaign?

'I feel like we've got egg on our face,' says one school administrator.

Photo by Alex Lau; Ad via NIC

Photo by Alex Lau; Ad via NIC

Last month, Boston Magazine reported that advertisements for the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC) would soon appear on Orange and Red Line trains, as well as the Framingham and Downtown Crossing stations. Those ads never went up, leaving the Natick-based trade school to wonder: Why?

“Somewhere, somebody lied to us, or miscommunicated, or however you want to put it. We feel lied to,” NIC school administrator Cara Crabb-Burnham says. “We put the press release out, and it feels unprofessional to put out a press release when it’s not true.”

The NIC says it received an email from Lauren Guidi of Titan 360, the group that manages MBTA station and vehicle advertising, on April 10, saying the ads were ready for final proofing and print production. The NIC says it informed Guidi of its intention to send a press release, and received this response: “That is exciting about the press release! Again I apologize about the delays on the approval end, I guess on the bright side is that we did get approval…I will be in touch next week with you either way, and let me know once the press release goes out.”

Cara Crabb-Burnham says she learned from journalists inquiring about the NIC’s April 21 press release, who spoke with the MBTA, that the ads remained under review. She said she and Titan 360 made numerous calls to the MBTA to make sense of the holdup, but did not receive a response. “I feel like we’ve got egg on our face,” she says.

Boston contacted MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo via email Tuesday and asked if the ads were initially approved by the MBTA, only to be stalled later. “The MBTA never approved their ads,” Pesaturo said.

“The whole thing has been incredibly humiliating and discouraging,” NIC Executive Director Mickey Martin said in a release. “We are an occupational school training people to be responsible professionals in an industry that is legal in every state in New England. We sell books and educational experiences and do not deserve to be discriminated against because of MBTA’s willingness to continue their position of Reefer Madness. The MBTA needs to approve our ads immediately and quit discouraging the development of local industry and good paying jobs for their ridership.”

“Our educational offerings are similar to what you would find in any bartending or other trade school. It amazes me that in this day and age the MBTA would somehow consider our school taboo because of the subject matter we teach. Frankly, it is offensive,” Martin said.

Earlier this month, Titan 360 returned the $3,375 the NIC paid in exchange for the ads. Martin has vowed legal action if necessary, accusing the MBTA of “viewpoint discrimination.” The NIC’s latest release references a 2004 federal appeals court decision, which found the MBTA’s rejection of ads for pro-cannabis legalization group Change the Climate unconstitutional.

“You want to know why the MBTA is in debt? They don’t know how to run business,” Crabb-Burnham says. “You’re going to stand on your moral high ground and tell people they can’t advertise for a cannabis institute when you can’t keep people from having oral sex in your station?”