Marijuana Policy Project Advertisement

A much-hyped attempt to advertise the benefits of marijuana to NASCAR fans fell flat this week, in part because the broadcaster pulled it under political pressure and in part because it was never quite what the popular media made it out to be.

The fuss was focused on a video ad produced by the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest marijuana-oriented policy group in the United States. The 30-second spot was slated to run 72 times on a video billboard outside the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27.

In fact it did, for most of the first day of the three-day event. Then the broadcaster, Grazie Media of Ontario, Canada, yanked the ad, supposedly after being informed it involved marijuana. The decision came after a day’s worth of angry coverage of the NASCAR marijuana ad.

The spot compares weed to beer and suggests alcohol is more damaging than marijuana. Pot, the ad notes, has “no calories, no hangovers” and is “not linked to violence or reckless behavior.” “Less harmful than alcohol and time to treat it that way,” the ad declares. No one is shown smoking or using pot.

The NASCAR Marijuana Ad:

Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert said the ad cost his group $2,200.

“I certainly hope we get our $2,200 back,” Tvert said. “We think it’s rather hypocritical for these folks to pull an ad highlighting the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol, yet welcome with open arms the copious amount of alcohol use taking place on the premises.”

An unnamed spokesman for Grazie Media told the newspaper his firm didn’t support “marijuana at family events” and “didn’t expect this ad to be interpreted the way it did. We don’t want anything to do with it anymore.”

Controversy over the ad got nationwide play as a news curiosity on the day before the race started and the ad was slated to air. Most commentators gave the impression the video board loomed over the entrance gate to the Speedway at 16th Street, where thousands of fans pass through.

Tvert and the Marijuana Policy Project may be partly to blame for this, as a news release from the group suggested the ad would be shown on a Jumbotron at the main entrance. In fact it was shown on a portable video board propped on top of a trailer next to food vendors. The space was leased from the American Legion.

According to USA Today, the ad was hard to hear and few seemed to notice it. It only aired part of the day, and never aired on race day, the most crowded day.

The purpose of the ad, of course, was attention, and the Marijuana Policy Project got that in spades. But by hyping the supposed animosity between marijuana “hippies” and NASCAR “rednecks,” the media badly missed the ball.

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