NASCAR Pulls Pro-Marijuana Legalization Ads From Race


It lasted about as long as a Phish song or a bag of Cheetos.

NASCAR turned heads in becoming the first major sport to feature marijuana advocacy advertisements at an event, allotting 30-second ad clips to the Marijuana Policy Project on jumbotrons outside Indianapolis' Brickyard 400 Friday. But after complaints charged the video with promoting marijuana use for a family audience, NASCAR chose to pull the ad.

The clip, which comes from the nation's largest pro-marijuana legalization group, introduces weed as "the new beer," a drug that doesn't have hangovers or calories. It ran for several hours on a screen outside the track and was not seen inside the stadium. The message was still enough for Mike Estojak, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway board director, who made the final call in ceasing the ad's run. Marijuana Policy Project paid $2,200 to display the ads over the course of the weekend.

"The company that hired me has policies against this and is content-neutral," Estojak said. That company is Grazie Media, an agency centered in Ontario, Canada that, according to a spokesman, "didn't expect this ad to be interpreted the way it did."

While the ad itself is clumsy and cringingly awkward, its message is salient enough to make an impact on the Brickyard 400's six-figure crowd. Grazie Media had to understand how the ad would be interpreted – what begins as an "as seen on TV" infomercial ends with the tagline "less harmful than alcohol, and time to treat it that way – and the fact that the company has yet to refund Marijuana Policy Project's $2,200 seems a bit unfair. The Brickyard 400's primary sponsor is Crown Royal Whisky, while Miller Lite is also heavily advertised on the track. Linking up with alcohol brands isn't exactly best for a "family event" either.

Ultimately, the ad did what it intended to do: attract attention and get a conversation going in regards to pot prohibition and alcohol legalization. While it didn't catch the eyes of NASCAR fans, it's now expanded to a nation-wide audience, and NASCAR's attempt to distance itself from the ad or silence its message has obviously backfired.

This weekend's incident highlights how divided the country is over weed, with states like Washington and Colorado legalizing recreational smoking while Indiana, the site of the Brickyard 400, still considers possession of marijuana to be a misdemeanor punishable with up to a year of jail time.