An Arizona group wants to add a new spin to the debate about recreational cannabis use, as it seeks to mainstream the conversation about legalization there. Instead of picking up a six-pack for a social event like a barbecue, they suggest grabbing some cannabis instead.
To plant that idea in the heads of voters in Arizona, backers of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) recently released billboard ads to tie in with the Phoenix Open, which runs Feb. 4-7.
The PGA golf tournament is sponsored by Coors and dubbed "the greatest party on grass." The billboards ask the reader, "If beer and golf make for the 'greatest party on grass'...Why can't adults enjoy a safer party on grass?"
Carlos Alfaro - the Arizona Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project - told Civilized that CMRLA launched the ad campaign around the golf tournament to promote both safe alcohol consumption and cannabis legalization.
"Basically, what we're trying to say is the Phoenix Open is known for two things, watching really good golf and getting wasted. The main message is, adults who can legally consume alcohol shouldn't be punished for choosing a safer substance. Marijuana is less harmful, so it should be treated at least the same way as alcohol in that we let adults responsibly consume it. If someone wants to go home after work and consume a bit of marijuana, that shouldn't be a crime."
The ads contain a link to a CRMLA webpage which compares the effects of both substances. In a press release promoting the ad campaign, CRMLA Chairman J.P. Holyoak says people need to understand that cannabis is a safer alternative to alcohol.
"Alcohol is more toxic, more addictive, and more likely to contribute to rowdy or violent behavior. If spectators can enjoy a beer or cocktail at the [course], adults should not be arrested for enjoying a little marijuana at a backyard picnic. It is, quite literally, a safer party on grass."
So far the ad has received some backlash, but the negative feedback has actually helped the CRMLA make their message stronger by pointing out the hypocrisy of cannabis stigmas, says Alfaro.
"We've gotten a few people complain that it is showing people having fun on marijuana - that is actually the complaint we are getting. 'How dare you show people having fun on a substance like marijuana.' But then we point out that there are billboards of people having fun with beer."
The CRMLA is currently collecting signatures to get their legalization initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot. If passed, adults 21 or older would be able to consume, grow and buy cannabis according to regulations outlined in the initiative.
Recreational use in outdoor or public settings isn't part of the ballot initiative, so you won't see any cannabis tents popping up at the Phoenix Open next year. But things could change in the near future. Afaro told Civilized that use in a social setting is, "definitely not off the table, but that is something that Arizonans will have to choose once this ballot initiative passes."
Arizona is considered one of the most likely states to legalize in 2016. And if they allow cannabis tents - like they do beer tents - at future golfing events, don't be surprised to hear a lot of people yelling "Fore Twenty!" on the green.