Change the Climate Ad Campaign Riles DC Pundits, Politicos 10/10/03

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


Change the Climate, Inc. ( has once again brought its pro-marijuana law reform advertising campaign to the nation's capital, and if the reaction from Washington, DC, elected officials, editorialists, and columnists is any indication, they are working just as hoped. The series of three ads, which tout the benefits of marijuana legalization by suggesting it would improve improve sex, save taxes and protect children, premiered last month on DC Metro buses, bus stops, and billboards, and began appearing on the DC Metro subway system this month.

And, oh, the howls they have generated! Washington Post humor columnist Bob Levey certainly saw nothing funny in them. The sex and marijuana ad in particular aroused Levey's ire. It was "stunningly foolish" and "shrieky," not to mention "ridiculous and potentially dangerous." And Levey was shocked, shocked, and shocked again that anyone would attempt to use sex to sell something. DC Metro, the transit authority which okayed the ads, should forget the First Amendment, Levey wrote, and can them.

But DC Metro knows better. It tried to do just that before Change the Climate's first DC ad campaign in January 2001, timed to be seen during President George W. Bush's inauguration. Metro had to back down after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue on Change the Climate's behalf for violating the group's First Amendment rights. "While the subject may be controversial to some people, we have a commitment to present all sides of every issue," Metro spokesman Steve Taubenkibel explained to the Washington Times last week. "As long as an ad is not vulgar, crude, uses no four-letter words and presents their viewpoint, then they have a right to go up."

new Change The Climate
ad: click for info and t-shirt
or poster sales
DC Councilman Jim Graham wasn't going for that First Amendment guff, though. Graham, who is chairman of Metro's Board of Directors, told the Times, "These ads are intolerable, and we need to review our policies so that First Amendment considerations are not allowed to compel us to accept this type of advertising." Graham claimed to believe in the First Amendment, "but we are being carried to limits here that no one can tolerate. When it leads us down this kind of path, we must find another option," he added.

DRCNet was quite curious to hear from Graham whether it was the ads' pro-legalization message that so riled him or the sex-and-pot connection, as well as how he could reconcile censorship and the First Amendment. A Graham staffer promised he would call back. We're still waiting for that call.

Change the Climate also roused the Washington Times' editorialists from their usual dogmatic slumber long enough to lash out at the ads. Of course, in typical fashion, the Times editorial accused not Change the Climate but the "public transit system and the DC government" of "pushing for the legalization of marijuana." But DC Metro is required by law to reserve 10% of its ad space for public service ads. As a nonprofit organization, Change the Climate clearly qualifies. And as Metro has pointed out repeatedly in this and earlier confrontations over other controversial ads, the fact that Metro posts the ad does not signify that it takes any position on the ad's claims.

Still, the Times pronounced itself befuddled by the very message. "There are no logical explanations for legalizing marijuana or encouraging teens to engage in sexual activity," the paper fumed. Besides demonstrating its lack of awareness of the last 30 years of global social history, the Times also tossed out a red herring with its expressed concern about teen sex. The ad in question, which features an adult man and woman, does not mention teenagers.

In fact, Change the Climate explicitly notes on its web site that, "We want to stress that sex and marijuana are for adults -- or at least for individuals who have achieved a level of emotional & psychological maturity that is reflected in a balanced, productive life."

"It's certainly been a wild ride," laughed Joseph White, founder and director of Change the Climate, "and it's been working. We've seen a doubling of hits on our web site this past month, and more than 800 people have downloaded the sex and marijuana ads," he told DRCNet. "The campaign has also helped us raise thousands of dollars through our online contribution system at the web site."

White is not the least chastened by the criticism from commentators and councilmen. "Politicians tend to mouth off a lot and offer very little constructive feedback on these important problems," he said. "Our campaign has the goal of promoting debate and discussion about marijuana issues, and I think we have done that in DC, given the reaction." Neither is he overly concerned about the charge that he is using sex to sell something. "Like other advertisers, we're using sex, but we're using it as an opportunity to get people thinking about marijuana and marijuana policy issues, not sell products," he said.

While Change the Climate has also done campaigns in Massachusetts, Nevada and northern California, Washington is a favorite target, White said. "Washington is one of our target markets because that's where the politicians who are standing in the way of meaningful marijuana reform are."

The DC bus and metro campaign cost $97,000, said White. Most of that money was raised from "parents and business executives," he said. "There are more campaigns on the drawing board," White warned. "Some of the magic created by Change the Climate is our ability to react quickly to situations around the country, like the federal assault on medical marijuana in California. We were able to get an ad campaign around the Ed Rosenthal trial up and running in a matter of weeks," White said.

And by acting as a lightning rod for prohibitionists, the ads may be easing the work of other reform groups, White suggested. "One of the leaders of the marijuana reform movement told me we are like the PETA of the reform movement," he said. "When we're talking about sex and pot or kids and pot, they can be seen as relative moderates when they talk about medical marijuana or decriminalization."

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #306, 10/10/03 Editorial: Summer's Over -- Long Live Summer | Curtain Closes on Ontario's Summer of Legalization: Court Ruling Reinstates Possession Law, Loosens Medical Marijuana Rules | Change the Climate Ad Campaign Riles DC Pundits, Politicos | California in the Era of Arnold | New England "Governors' Summit" on Drugs: Drug War Horse and Pony Show Inside, Protestors Outside | This Week in History | Urgent Action Appeal on Singapore Drug Case from Amnesty International | Newsbrief: In Fall Term, Supreme Court Rejects South Carolina Crack Mom Appeal, Accepts Case on Ex-Drug User's Rights Under Americans With Disabilities Act | Newsbrief: Georgia Supreme Court Throws Out Driver Drug Test Law | Newsbrief: Walters Lies Pile Up in Canada Diatribe | Canadian Prime Minister Talks About Toking Up | Newsbrief: Sarasota Police Lure Would-Be Drug Dealers for Profit | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Pentagon Adds Drugs to List of Foes in Afghanistan | Newsbrief: Vacation in Bermuda? Anti-Marijuana Campaign Underway | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]