California officials have jettisoned an ad campaign designed to stop cannabis-impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel after critics claimed the ad glorified the herb. The public service announcement, created as legal sales of marijuana began on Jan. 1, lasted less than a week before being pulled by the California Office of Traffic Safety.
The ads featured Californians discussing the reasons they consume cannabis. “I just like it,” says one man in the ad. “It helps me feel normal,” says a woman battling anxiety. The advertisement concludes by reminding viewers that DUI doesn’t just mean booze” and warning that it is illegal to drive while intoxicated.
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The campaign drew criticism from some anti-cannabis activists, including Rob Stutzman, a conservative political consultant. Stutzman tweeted: “This CA taxpayer funded PSA spends most air time normalizing/promoting pot use before saying don’t drive stoned. Imagine same extolling virtues of alcohol? This is is absurd, @JerryBrownGov should nix this.”
This CA taxpayer funded PSA spends most air time normalizing/promoting pot use before saying don’t drive stoned. Imagine same extolling virtues of alcohol? This is is absurd, @JerryBrownGov should nix this. https://t.co/ABfLK6j0ZE
— Rob Stutzman (@RobStutzman) January 1, 2018
In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Stutzman said he’s glad the ad was removed. He said the ad’s promotional aspect was unintended but clear. “They were trying to identify with marijuana users,” he said. “Unfortunately there was another message – promoting marijuana.”
Another critic, Paul Mitchell, a Sacramento political consultant, said, “If the state wants to reinforce the idea that DUIs can happen for smoking pot, it should be pretty easy for them to do without throwing out the claims for the benefits of smoking pot, especially when some of them aren’t entirely supported by everybody.”
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Office of Traffic Safety director Rhonda Craft said in that her agency shares “the concerns expressed over certain elements” of the ad and would work to refine the message.
The $1 million ad campaign has been running in the major California metropolitan TV markets before being pulled.