Cannabis Prohibition Ad Relies on Scare Tactics from the Past


A cannabis prohibition group in Massachusetts has released an ad that depicts what a nightmare version of legal marijuana would look like. The ad shows a mother taking her daughter to a toy store in a suburban neighborhood that is overrun by pot stores. All the strip malls are populated with cannabis retail outlets, people smoking publicly and sirens whizzing by. The narrator of the ad threatens, “Question 4 would allow thousands of pot shops and marijuana operators throughout Massachusetts — in neighborhoods like yours” before proceeding to try and induce fear with propaganda and false statistics, stating that incidents of drugged driving have gone up in states where pot is legal which is incorrect.

Not Far Off from Reefer Madness

The TV spot shows an absurd  dystopian reality where weed is completely unrestricted.

To the mother’s horror, she arrives at the strip mall toy store to find that a marijuana store has moved next door. On top of this, the store is displaying pot candy in the window that looks like it was made for children and the daughter looks at it hungrily. The narrator expounds on the scene, explaining “shops that sell pot edibles that look like candy and high-potency marijuana.” The mother pulls her away from the store as a young man is exiting it. He is eating pot edibles and holding a brown bag that contains a bong. “Mom?” he says quite shocked. “Kevin?” she replies with equal horror.

Cannabis Prohibition Groups Fabricating “Facts”

The cannabis prohibition group Campaign for a Safe and Healthy MA hired Jamestown Associates, a GOP political consulting firm who has participated in anti-marijuana smear campaigns in the past. The representations in the ad would not be permissible in any kind of legalized scenario. Public smoking would be prohibited for starters and a Cannabis Control Commission would have the job of making sure store signs and marketing have “reasonable restrictions” as well as “prohibiting marketing or advertising designed to appeal to children.” Beyond this, cities, town and municipalities would have the right to manage and create restrictions on how public signs that relate to marijuana would be allowed to look. In fact, they would also have the right to ban recreational marijuana stores in their area altogether.

The Truth Prohibitionist Don’t Want You to Know

The facts presented in the ad are about as solid as any scene in Reefer Madness.

Drugged driving incidents have not increased in any states with legal marijuana as the ad implies. Studies have concluded that driving under the influence of marijuana creates a low to moderate risk, unlike alcohol which is a high risk substance but at any rate it would be illegal to drive while high under the law. Cannabis prohibition is often promoted as helping the youth and this ad is no different. The cannabis store is next to the toy store and has candy in the window. “Kevin” also looks remarkably young, although it isn’t made clear whether or not he is a teen, despite the fact that marijuana would only be legal to adults over 21. Regardless of the implications in the ad, all state government studies show that there has be no effect on teens when it comes to legalizing marijuana. There has been no increase in teen use at all and, in some areas, there has actually been a slight decline.

Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for YES on 4, the pro-legalization ballot committee, said, “Our initiative gives complete control to towns to limit or prohibit marijuana establishments, and studies from other states show no increase in crashes or fatalities due to marijuana impairment. The question before Massachusetts voters is whether to allow criminals to continue to control the market or to shift commerce to licensed, taxpaying businesses under the control of state regulators and local authorities. We think voters will base their decision on facts, not on smear-and-fear tactics.”


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