The NASCAR race on March 27th was supposed to be a historic event for marijuana reform. Thanks to car owner Matt Dugan and Cannabis Planet TV, the iconic marijuana leaf was set to fly around the track hundreds of times, attached to the hood of Car #38 beside the logos of many other marijuana policy reform organizations.
The car was ready, the engines were revving, but just prior to the start of the race, NASCAR officials gave Car #38 the red light. After a dubious explanation involving late paperwork, the car’s team was forced to abandon its pro-marijuana sponsors, but was allowed to run with a different set of sponsors.
This was just the latest in a pattern where marijuana policy reform advertising is concerned.
Earlier this year, NORML was given approval for a digitized ad to appear on a CBS billboard in Times Square. Days before it aired, officials on the standards board at CBS revoked that approval. And last summer, a thirty-second commercial produced by MPP was accepted by several California television stations, and then rejected by most of them later. The ad, which did not depict marijuana or marijuana use, was deemed unacceptable for “promoting marijuana smoking.”
Apparently, NASCAR didn’t think that its fans would be able to handle the sight of a marijuana leaf emblazoned on a racecar in a supposedly family-friendly atmosphere. They don’t seem to have a problem with their alcohol sponsors, however, despite the annoying fact that more than 10,000 people die every year in car wrecks involving alcohol. Safety and common sense must not be priorities for NASCAR, or the media for that matter, since anyone watching NASCAR on TV is likely to be shown pervasive advertisement for booze, dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, and fast food, all of which can be more harmful than marijuana.
There is nothing offensive or inappropriate about advocating for marijuana policy reform. One need only watch the news on any given day to see that the public is ready to have a conversation about this issue. So why are the top people at these organizations stooping to blatant censorship to prevent it?
Regardless of their motives, these dinosaurs don’t seem like they have much strength left to fight these battles. In the case of the MPP commercial, most of the channels that rejected the ad wound up showing it anyway, but not during commercial breaks. Instead, it played on the news programs, during coverage of the outrage sparked by the commercial’s rejection. And in Times Square, a message of rationality flashed throughout the day and night for two weeks, thanks to the efforts of NORML and the folks at Change.org. After the online petition received more than ten thousand votes, CBS bowed under pressure and allowed the ad to appear.
Hopefully, the top brass at NASCAR will see the writing on the wall and fall in line. If not, let’s hope instead that all you NASCAR fans out there speak up so loudly they’ll be able to hear you over the roar of the engines. Whether you want to cheer for the weed-mobile or you just don’t like NASCAR executives telling you what to think, let them know they can’t keep people from teaching others about marijuana policy reform. This applies to any situation where someone is standing in the way of rational conversation on this issue, be it a TV station, a sports organization, or an elected official.
The public wants to talk about this. Those who are not afraid of the free exchange of ideas will reap the rewards, as advertisers and reformers line up to do business with them. If prohibitionists, or anyone else, continue to stifle the debate, they will quickly realize that they are on the losing side. We’ve been saying this for years, but maybe now they will listen more closely to their wallets.
Morgan Fox is communications assistant for the Marijuana Policy Project.