Change the Climate (http://www.changetheclimate.org) couldn't get Massachusetts officials to grasp the concept of the First Amendment, but it has had better luck in the nation's capital. On January 3rd, the nonprofit group's ads suggesting that marijuana use should be decriminalized began appearing on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, or the Metro) subway station walls and on buses throughout the Washington area.
At first, Metro followed the censorious path of Massachusetts and banned the ads, saying they violated a policy that says public service ads must be non-commercial, non-partisan and "not designed to influence legislation or public opinion on a controversial subject," a Metro spokesman told the Washington Post. Metro relented, however, in the face of a lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The one-month ad campaign features three ads. The first, which appears in 10 subway stations, including one near the White House, shows a young woman asking, "Why do kids go to jail for doing what politicians did when they were young? Tell us the truth."
The second ad, which appears on small signs inside 500 Metro buses, features an executive who smokes marijuana to ease the effects of his chemotherapy. The third ad, a large sign appearing on the sides of 50 buses, shows two police officers standing in front of an American flag. "Police are too important... too valuable... too good... to waste on arresting people for marijuana when real criminals are on the loose."
Change the Climate paid Metro $2,150, a discounted rate for nonprofits that did not include artwork or printing.
Joseph White, the group's director, told DRCNet in an interview last fall (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/158.html#letmetalk) that the ad campaign was timed to coincide with the presidential inauguration, set for January 20th, in order to maximize the campaign's visibility.
New York and Chicago are next, he said.