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California Pulls Drugged-Driving Ad Critics Said Promoted Cannabis

January 8, 2018
A medical marijuana dispensary leaves its lights on after hours on in Los Angeles in this 2010 file photo. California is pulling ads aimed at discouraging drugged driving after critics said it promoted cannabis use. The ad campaign was rolled out as California began allowing licensed stores to sell cannabis to adults on Jan. 1, 2018. (Adam Lau/AP)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California officials on Friday pulled an ad aimed at discouraging stoned driving after critics said it glorified and promoted cannabis use.

The public service announcement was rolled out as California began allowing licensed stores to sell marijuana products to adults on Jan. 1.

The majority of the ad featured people talking about why they consume cannabis.

One man says “I just like it.” A woman says it helps her with her anxiety and another says “it helps me feel normal.” It closed with them saying they never drive while high, and “DUI doesn’t just mean booze.”

Office of Traffic Safety director Rhonda Craft said in an email Friday that the agency shares “the concerns expressed over certain elements” of the ad and would work to refine the message.


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“The intent, however, was to address as many of the reasons people choose to consume cannabis in a way that resonates with this demographic in hopes that they listen,” she wrote.

The ad will be replaced with a different one produced last year that warns that smoking cannabis, unlike cigarettes, can result in charges for driving under the influence.

The ads had a $1 million budget for airtime, plus production costs, and appeared in several of California’s major media markets.

Critics said the ad resembled alcohol ads that present a glorified image of a product and remind users at the end to “please drink responsibly.”


Study Finds Alcohol 10 Times Deadlier Than Cannabis on the Road

“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,” said Paul Mitchell, a Sacramento political consultant who had criticized the ads on Twitter.

On Monday, California opened what is expected to be the world’s largest legal market for cannabis as states in the West have warmed to the long-banned drug.

The legalization push has prompted concerns from law-enforcement officials that it would lead to an uptick in impaired driving. There’s no simple test to check for marijuana impairment as there is for alcohol with a breathalyzer.

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  • Beth Feld

    Well, this ad did a better job than D.A.R.E. did!

  • Sonny Fellers

    There is no reason to worry about smoking and driving. The concern is that our criminal government will use the idea of these “dangers” to continue to shakedown people for money like they’ve been doin with prohibition all along. Of course continuing to promote the dishonest narrative that cannabis is dangerous at all is to distract everyone from the fact that all our politicians from the last 50 years should be shot.

  • I just asked a lawyer “friend”, “Is there any legal precedence for assuming responsibility before commiting a crime?” That quickly dispelled any allusion about any friendship between us.

    When exactly does it become a crime to grow cannabis?