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Marijuana groups slug it out on Super Bowl billboards

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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The Super Bowl is being played by teams from the two states to legalize marijuana, but the game won’t be free of conflict over weed.

National groups that both oppose and advocate for marijuana legalization have each bought billboard space near the stadium to promote their messages, bringing even more attention to a debate that has long ago gone mainstream. (RELATED: Pro-pot billboards to surround Super Bowl stadium)

Marijuana Policy Project, the national organization that pushed for passage of Colorado’s Amendment 64 in 2012, made the first buy with a series of ads showcasing their argument that pot is safer than alcohol (and football). The messages encourage the National Football League to stop punishing players for using marijuana.

“Marijuana is less toxic, less addictive, and less harmful to the body than alcohol,” said MPP Director of Communications Mason Tvert in a press release. “Why would the NFL want to steer its players toward drinking and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana instead? If it is okay for athletes to douse each other with champagne in front of the cameras, it should be okay for them to use marijuana privately in their homes.”

In response, Project SAM — a national anti-marijuana group headed by former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy — also bought ad space in New York and New Jersey.

Its billboards depict a clip-art-like football player beneath the words, “Motivation, perseverance, determination.” Next to that is a pot leaf with the words, “None of the above.”

“Marijuana use saps motivation, perseverance, and determination — the opposite of what it takes to win the Super Bowl,” Kennedy said in a press release. “It is not a safe drug, especially for kids, and we need to reiterate the message to coaches, parents, players and teens alike that it has no place in football.”

Not to be outdone, MPP fired back with a new round of ads that mimic those of Project SAM, except with a clip-art shot of tequila with the words, “Overdose deaths, violent crime, serious injuries.” Again, the words over the pot leaf read, “None of the above.”

Another MPP billboard features a quote from Kennedy during a recent appearance on CNN, in which he agrees with a recent statement by President Obama that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana.

“The folks working to keep marijuana illegal appear to have run out of compelling arguments,” Tvert said in his latest statement. “They are now just acknowledging that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and telling people they will be losers if they make the safer choice.”

“If Mr. Kennedy is concerned about public health and safety, and he knows that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, why does he prefer adults drink?” he said. “Our society recognizes that adults should have the right to consume alcohol responsibly. Prohibiting those same adults from using a less harmful substance is not a very smart approach to marijuana.”

According to the latest tally by Ad Age, Anheuser-Busch InBev has by far bought the most Super Bowl commercial time, debuting three ads for Bud Light and two for Budweiser.

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