Last weekend’s NASCAR Brickyard 400 in Indiana was poised to be the first major U.S. sporting event to feature a marijuana legalization ad. But after the Drug Free America Foundation complained that the ad promoted drug abuse, the company that owns the jumbotron pulled the ad just hours before it was scheduled to air. The ad produced by the Marijuana Policy Project argues that marijuana is “less harmful than alcohol,” and that it’s “time to treat it that way” at an event where alcohol is frequently consumed. The ad touts that marijuana has less calories, no hangovers, no overdose deaths, and is not linked to violence. “If you’re an adult who enjoys a good beer, there’s a similar product you might wanna know about,” the ad counsels.
MPP Communications Director Mason Tvert told ThinkProgress that MPP agreed to the ad after the organization was originally contacted by Grazie Media. A representative alerted them to discounts for nonprofits and encouraged them to submit an ad. They entered into a contract, MPP paid Grazie, and delivered an ad specifically for the event that was slotted to run over the weekend. In the wee Friday hours, Drug Free America Foundation sent out a press release celebrating that the ad had been pulled and calling it “deceptive advertising.” The release included a quote from a Grazie Media CEO Vanessa Wojtala, who said, “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,” according to a company representative.
“We’re baffled at their response,” Tvert said. “Clearly they buckled under pressure from marijuana prohibition organizations and that’s unfortunate because it’s hindering the public dialog about the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol.”
Marijuana is not legal in Indiana, and Tvert said the intent of the ad was to promote “public discussion about the efficacy of marijuana prohibition.”
“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 said in a statement. “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.”