An odd thing happened over the weekend: a pro-marijuana legalization advertisement set to run on a large screen outside the Brickyard 400, one of the nation's largest NASCAR events, was abruptly pulled from circulation even though the event was heavily sponsored by alcohol-sellers.
The ad, created by the Marijuana Policy Project, is perhaps one of the most effective legalization advocacy spots yet, crafted out of stock footage on a budget of just a few hundred dollars. It takes direct aim at booze, promoting a conversation about marijuana by mentioning that it has no carbs, no hangover, and isn't associated with violent behavior.
"Ultimately, the goal is to get this important message to the public in a way that they will absorb it and hopefully talk to other people about it, because that's really when we see people's minds change," Mason Tvert, spokesperson for MPP, told The Progressive. "Handing someone a flier doesn't get you too far, but having people talking to their friends, relatives and colleagues leads to people really rethinking their position."
Tvert said he bought 72 slots for the ad, titled "New Beer," for just $2,200. For an event expected to host over 150,000 people, that's bigger than huge: It's a total advertising coup.
After a story in USA Today featuring the ad hit the national press, Grazie Media, the company behind the jumbo screens that the Marijuana Policy Project bought space on, decided against the spot. "We in no way support marijuana at family events," a spokesman told USA Today. "We didn't expect this ad to be interpreted the way it did. We don't want anything to do with it anymore."
However, Tvert pointed out that the Brickyard 400, now in its 20th year, is sponsored by some of the most lucrative booze-sellers in the country. Specifically, Crown Royal Whiskey and Miller Lite underwrote the event, known for crowds of blue-collar Americans consuming large quantities of alcohol.
Many Americans who may otherwise be supportive of changing the nation's marijuana laws will confess: NASCAR is not really their scene. To the uninitiated, here's what happens at every major racing event...
"Family friendly?" Okay, maybe not so much.
"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 an advisory. "This is the exact type of hypocrisy that motivated us to run this ad."
Tvert added that the Grazie Media "solicited" the ad to begin with, specifically approved its content and then accepted payment after agreeing upon how many times the video would run. The company plans to refund Marijuana Policy Project money. Its credibility, however, may be permanently stunted.
"It is clear this organization is more concerned about maintaining marijuana prohibition than it is about maintaining public health and safety," Tvert concluded. "We are sorry to see Grazie Media abandon its agreement with a client when confronted by such reefer madness."