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Pro-Marijuana Billboard Near NASCAR Risks Alienating Beer Lovers

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Nascar marijuana mpp marijuana policy projectThe Marijuana Policy Project has launched a new public relations project in the form of a pro-marijuana video billboard outside the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race in Indianapolis this weekend.  (Update: The media company has pulled the ad after pressure from Save Our Society From Drugs, which complained marijuana is not safer than alcohol.)

The ad begins with friends at a bar toasting the evening with a cold brew.  The onscreen graphics ask A new ”beer”?  An image of a beer-bellied man holding a mug flashes into a sexy woman with a toned midriff - NO calories the screen tells us.  A disheveled woman holds her head as she looks at various alcohol glasses, which transitions to a smiling man in bed as the screen proclaims NO hangovers.  An angry beer-holding man in a wife-beater t-shirt waves his fist at his cowering wife, then the screen changes to the embracing, smiling couple as the screen reads NO violence.  The ad concludes with four smiling young adults in a sunset at the beach as the screen tells us Marijuana – Less harmful than alcohol and [it’s] time to treat it that way.

Everything in the ad relating to marijuana is absolutely true:

But take a moment and imagine you are a NASCAR fan on your way to the Brickyard 400. You and your friends and just about everyone you know drinks beer. Some of you drink the harder stuff. It’s not just a tasty beverage, it is part of your identity. You might be a “Budweiser guy” or a “Miller man” or maybe you prefer obscure craft beers. Now imagine you’ve heard that the pot legalizers from Washington DC put up some video outside the race and this is how you see yourself and your friends portrayed.

Enjoy the race, you obese wife-beating alcoholics! And make sure to support our issue if you get the chance!

I am not the only one to notice this demonization of alcohol for the promotion of marijuana. USA Today commented that “the video ad isn’t just pro-marijuana… its tone sounds anti-alcohol.” Business Insider ran the headline “This Anti-Beer, Pro-Marijuana Ad Will Run During A NASCAR Race.” Bleacher Report predicted “Undoubtedly, some NASCAR fans will be offended by the ad.”

I called MPP’s Mason Tvert, who composed the ad with two staffers, stock footage, and about $350. Placing the ad with the non-profit rate cost MPP $2,200. In terms of “bang for the buck”, especially with all the earned (free) media coverage the ad is garnering, Tvert has hit a home run, at least for the marijuana team. The question is whether he just hit the home run for pot in a “Miller Park” or a “Coors Field”. I asked Tvert whether he was concerned about a backlash from beer lovers who may be offended by the ad.

“No,” he said, flatly, adding, “We are just reaching out to people who enjoy alcohol responsibly to think about the facts surrounding marijuana use.”  I replied that portraying beer drinkers as beer-bellied wife-beaters doesn’t sound like “enjoying alcohol responsibly,” to which Tvert answered, “we want them to consider why marijuana must be illegal and why should we punish adults for using something objectively less harmful than alcohol?”

MPP has recently had a similar public relations skirmish with beer lovers.  Prior to the Portland Craft Beer & Wine Festival, MPP placed a “Beer – Wine – Safer” billboard up in downtown.  Lobbyists for the alcohol industry didn’t take kindly to the portrayal of their product as something dangerous.  In the statehouse in Salem, their neutrality toward a legislative attempt to legalize marijuana threatened to become official opposition until local marijuana lobbyists assured them this wasn’t the work in-state reformers.

Now that marijuana legalization has reached majority support in this country, I do not believe it is necessary or prudent to accumulate new enemies to legalization. Demonizing alcohol to promote marijuana threatens to create animosity between people who should be allies – those who like to get a buzz on now and then. The benefits of marijuana and its legalization can be promoted without offending the alcohol industry, which, at least when it comes to craft breweries, seem to welcome and celebrate the legalization of marijuana.

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation

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About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.

  • Bill Griggs

    “Enjoy the race, you obese wife-beating alcoholics! And make sure to support our issue if you get the chance!”

    That was a dumb ad and the publicity from it wasn’t good publicity. If they’re going to run ads the ads should not promote marijuana use and they shouldn’t ads bound to offend a lot of people. This was no home run.

    “we want them to consider why marijuana must be illegal and why should we punish adults for using something objectively less harmful than alcohol?”

    There are better ways to do that. Point out how wasteful and ineffective this prohibition is and how it causes every problem caused by Alcohol Prohibition and more. Make ads that show the harms of this prohibition and that hardly anyone who wants to smoke pot is deterred by the laws. Don’t argue that marijuana is so good that it should be legal, but that this prohibition is a bad thing that does far more harm than good. It’s stupid to have ads that encourage pot use. That makes people think that pot use will be encouraged even more if we legalize it. That makes them worry that a whole lot more people will smoke pot if we legalize, and you’re not going to convince many that people switch from booze to weed. They think people will just do both, which is really true in most cases. Most of those beer drinking NASCAR fans have smoked pot, and many still do. According to one study in medical marijuana states with dispensaries and loose laws where pot is basically legal already beer sales dropped by maybe 5% at most after their laws changed, and that may have been because people switched to more wine and spirits. Pot use didn’t go up much either because most everybody who wants to smoke pot is already smoking it, and very few will actually switch from alcohol to pot if pot is legal. This ad was dumb. It was dumb to run it. It could only do more harm than good. I hope they’ll use better sense next time they decide to run some advertising.

  • yyaya

    i think wine is suppose to good for you in some way

  • Mr. Bogart

    To all you “Beer Lovers” this MJ buds for you.

    I would like to know, when was the last time someone called in sick because he/she was too hung over to go to work on MON. from consuming alcohol VS the people that smoke weed and called in sick? Name one medical fact, that using alcohol is good for your health VS using weed? When was the last time someone overdosed on alcohol and died VS someone overdosing on weed?

    There are so many FACTS that clearly show that alcohol is very addictive, very destructive and deadly, where weed in comparison, is less addictive than caffeine, less destructive, and yet to be deadly. So I say to all you people that consume alcohol, go ahead and keep destroying your brain cells, while I will be consuming weed to stimulate my brains growth and minimize my daily pains from my ailments. I will continue to consume weed, continue to grow and be at zero risk from overdosing on marijuana, while you heavy drinkers get “Wet Brain” and eventually die from alcohol abuse.

  • Floridabadger

    Truth hurts eh!! Some peopled piss & moan if hung w/a new rope!! WTF Over!!

  • joe voll

    Beer drinkers? ALIENATED? Theres no one out there trying to take away beer drinkers rights to enjoy a beer! Cant say the same thing about marijuana even in Colorado and Washington. They always say we have to take away your rights to use marijuana in order to protect the kids. No matter how many deaths from alcohol there are, no matter how many kids are dieing from alcohol, its never used as an excuse to recriminalize alcohol for adults.

  • Pat Cowdin

    Please don’t confuse us with your science. We like our cars to turn in only one direction, even though it is, unfortunately, to the left. And we like our refreshment to be liquid, even though it is, technically, a poison.