The Marijuana Policy Project made waves last Thursday with an announcement that the group was launching a pro-marijuana ad at NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 races in Indianapolis. The video, which was reminiscent of a beer commercial, highlighted the relative safety of marijuana, touting it as a “new beer” that is less harmful to consumers and society.But by Friday afternoon, the ad was pulled.
According to a press release from the Marijuana Policy Project, the ad was dropped by a company called Grazie Media, which owns the billboard that was slated to carry the commercial at the NASCAR event. Grazie had already approved the content and accepted payment.
“Grazie Media does not, in any way, shape or form, support the use of marijuana nor the promotion of illegal drugs at a family event,” Vanessa Wojtala, CEO and director of programming at Grazie Media, said.
The ad claimed that unlike alcohol, marijuana doesn’t have any calories or lead to serious health problems. It also claimed marijuana doesn’t cause hangovers or result in fatal overdose, and that pot is not linked to violence or reckless behavior. The ad concluded, “Marijuana: less harmful than alcohol and time to treat it that way.”
According to Raw Story, the ad was dropped after Drug Free America Foundation Inc. complained about it, saying that it promoted drug abuse.
“This campaign falsely claims marijuana is safer than alcohol and promotes illicit drug use in a state where marijuana is illegal,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation and Save Our Society From Drugs. “It is irresponsible marketing and I commend Grazie Media for their swift action towards the removal of this ad.”
Mason Tvert, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the group was “absolutely baffled by the claim that marijuana is not safer than alcohol.”
“If Save Our Society From Drugs truly wishes to ‘save our society from drugs,’ why on earth would they want to prevent people from learning that alcohol use is far more toxic and likely to contribute to violent behavior than marijuana?” he said, according to Raw Story. “It is clear this organization is more concerned about maintaining marijuana prohibition than it is about maintaining public health and safety. We are sorry to see Grazie Media abandon its agreement with a client when confronted by such reefer madness.”
“We find it odd that this company is willing to run ads at an alcohol-fueled event, yet unwilling to run an ad that simply highlights the ways in which marijuana is less harmful than alcohol,” Tvert added. “This is the exact type of hypocrisy that motivated us to run this ad. We wanted to make people think about the absurdity of laws that allow adults to use alcohol but punish them for making the safer choice to use marijuana instead, if that is what they prefer.”
As Mint Press News previously reported, marijuana advocacy groups such as Safer Choice, which helped create the ad, point out that while alcohol causes more than 37,000 deaths every year, marijuana has never killed anyone.
Despite the fact that 75 percent of Americans consume alcohol, it’s one of the most toxic drugs in the world. Robert Gable, a professor emeritus of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, speculated in a piece in the American Scientist that due to its high toxicity level and addiction potential, alcohol would likely not be legalized if it was introduced today.
In a February 2013 interview with Mint Press News, Thomas Gallagher, a defense attorney and legalization advocate in Minneapolis, said the relationship between marijuana and violence or criminal acts has been misconstrued. Marijuana is less likely than alcohol to cause teenagers to become violent or get in any sort of trouble, he said.
Gallagher said he has never had an assault case involving marijuana, but that alcohol is involved in 99 percent of domestic abuse cases.
“It’s a derivative argument,” he said. “What makes drugs violent is the criminal laws that create the black market and underground economy. Gangs are created to protect money.”
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