Why You Should Put Down Your Drink and Spark a Joint

An ad campaign stresses that marijuana is safer than alcohol.

July 26, 2013— -- Update, 9:45 p.m.: The ad mentioned below was pulled by Grazie Media, the company airing it, according to a press release from the Marijuana Policy Project.

You've heard how legalizing marijuana could bring in tax dollars and reduce the damage caused by the war on drugs.

Now there's a new pot message hitting the mainstream: Weed is safer than alcohol.

A video ad created by the Marijuana Policy Project, which wants to change drug laws, will play outside a NASCAR race in Indianapolis this weekend. It puts marijuana side-by-side with booze, making the case that cannabis is the more responsible recreational drug.

"If you're an adult who enjoys a good beer, there's a similar product you might wanna know about," the video narrator says. "One without all the calories and serious health problems. Less toxic, so it doesn't cause hangovers or overdose deaths, and it's not linked to violence or reckless behavior."

"Marijuana, less harmful than alcohol, and time to treat it that way," the video concludes.

Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, explains why they chose the auto racing event to launch the ad.

"Many adults will be enjoying a beer or two at the race this weekend, and we want them to think about the fact that marijuana is an objectively less harmful product," Tvert wrote in an email. "Most importantly, we hope racing fans who still think marijuana should be illegal will question the logic of punishing adults for using a safer substance than those produced by sponsors of NASCAR events and racing teams."

There's some convincing research behind the claim.

For example, there are an average of 37,000 deaths per year related to alcohol use (and that doesn't include alcohol-related accidents), according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The government agency doesn't track marijuana deaths, but some studies have found that pot has relatively few adverse clinical health effects.

And when it comes to toxicity and immediate death, one researcher found that marijuana was 100 times safer than alcohol or cocaine.

"Unfortunately, most Americans have been led to believe that marijuana is more harmful than it actually is," Tvert said, "and as a result our laws have been based on misinformation."

The NASCAR race where the ad will appear, called the Brickyard 400, is one of the biggest all year, and could draw upwards of 600,000 people, according to USA Today.

The space where the ad will be presented is actually outside the track, and therefore won't be subject to review by NASCAR or the venue, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.