Colorado’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has just fired its first big advertising salvo, and it looks to be an effective one.
A new billboard unveiled Thursday by the group just blocks away from Mile High Stadium in Denver shows a smiling woman with her arms folded, next to the text: “For many reasons, I prefer… marijuana over alcohol. Does that make me a bad person? RegulateMarijuana.org.”
“That’s what we want to talk to Coloradans right now,” Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the campaign, told Raw Story on Friday. “We’re trying to educate them about why it is that marijuana is safer than alcohol. If you look at every objective study comparing the safety of the two, you’ll see that marijuana is clearly safer than alcohol.”
Not only is the billboard near Mile High Stadium, it’s also right next to Mile High Liquors. The group said on its website that the location was optimal because it will force some drinkers to confront their bias toward marijuana users. It was also a good deal, too: the campaign told Raw Story that their sign only cost $5,000.
Their claims aren’t just a clever pitch for the drug, either: Marijuana has in fact been shown to be less addictive than alcohol, and its more enthusiastic users tend to exhibit fewer adverse health effects than alcoholics. It is also impossible to overdose on marijuana, which its adherents see as an advantage over the relative ease of alcohol poisoning.
That’s the message the campaign is trying to bring to Coloradans, and Aldworth explained that they’ve only just begun. “We’re asking volunteers to talk to their neighbors, their family members — and particularly aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents, people in the next two generations up,” she said. “Young people, for the most part, get it, they’ve seen their friends use marijuana and alcohol, and how they affect people. They understand… There is no logical reason to punish people for marijuana.”
She added that volunteers have seen “almost exclusively positive reactions so far,” but noted that their educational campaign has only just begun.
That campaign will directly support the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which has secured a spot on the state’s 2012 ballot. It would allow for the limited possession and cultivation of cannabis by adults age 21 and over. It would also allow the state and local governments to enact regulations on the commercial production and distribution of marijuana, as well giving local governments the option to prohibit marijuana sales altogether.
“This could be a watershed year in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country,” Art Way, Colorado manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, explained in a statement. “Marijuana prohibition is counterproductive to the health and public safety of our communities. It fuels a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wastes billions of dollars in scarce law enforcement resources, and makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
It’s not yet clear if Colorado will become the first state to legalize marijuana, but that is a distinct possibility. Even moreso than California in 2010, which defeated legalization by a narrow margin, Colorado leans heavily toward favoring marijuana regulation, and lawmakers there became the first in the nation last year to begin directly licensing medical marijuana businesses. The state’s Department of Revenue has even sent a formal letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency asking that it recognize the plant’s inherent medical value.
If the old thinking holds true and these lawmakers truly are a reflection of their constituents, Colorado just may be on track to buck the trend and embrace regulation this fall.
With prior reporting by Raw Story associate editor Eric W. Dolan.
Correction: A prior version of this article said California’s legalization bill was defeated by “a double digit margin” in 2010. It was defeated by a margin of approximately 8 percent.