Opponents of legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts are launching their first television advertisement Tuesday, a powerful 30-second spot that imagines an almost dystopian neighborhood overrun by pot shops and stoners.
In the ad, a mother drives her daughter through a familiar suburban scene of strip malls, passing one marijuana store after another, signs alighted with green cannabis leaves.
“Question 4 would allow thousands of pot shops and marijuana operators throughout Massachusetts — in neighborhoods like yours,” a female narrator says, referring to the Nov. 8 ballot measure.
The mother and daughter park and get out of the car at a toy store — one that’s next to a marijuana store.
“Shops that sell pot edibles that look like candy and high-potency marijuana,” the narrator says, as the young daughter is drawn to a window display of edibles. Her mom walks over, a look of concern washing over her face. Then emergency vehicles, sirens wailing and lights flashing, speed by.
“In pro-pot states, incidents of drugged driving and fatal car accidents are up,” the narrator continues. There are “more pot shops than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined,” she says referring to Colorado, one of four states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, as a person billowing smoke walks by across the street.
At the end of the ad, the mother turns to see a young man coming out of the marijuana store. He is eating something and holding a brown paper bag with a glass bong.
“Mom?” he says, shocked.
“Kevin?” his mother replies.
Then the narrator concludes: “Vote no on 4.”
Advocates for legalization slammed the ad. “This ad has about as much connection to reality as a Donald Trump campaign speech, which should come as no surprise since it’s funded by a Trump endorser and made by a Trump ad firm,” said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for YES on 4, the pro-legalization ballot committee.
The ad was made by Jamestown Associates, a GOP political consulting firm. It has also made ads for Governor Charlie Baker, one of a bipartisan group of politicians backing the anti-pot effort.
Borghesani said the question facing voters is whether to allow criminals to keep controlling the marijuana market, or to shift it to law-abiding, tax-paying businesses under the control of regulators. Borghesani said the initiative gives “complete control” to cities and towns to limit or prohibit marijuana establishments.
The referendum would create a statewide Cannabis Control Commission. It would be tasked with making “reasonable restrictions” on store signs and advertising and “prohibiting marketing or advertising designed to appeal to children.”
The proposed law would also give cities and towns the right to “establish reasonable restrictions on public signs related to marijuana establishments.” This would probably allow municipalities to make sure their streets don’t look like the one portrayed in the ad. Voters could also ban recreational marijuana establishments in a town altogether.
Borghesani pushed back against the drugged-driving claims, saying that “studies from other states show no increase in crashes or fatalities due to marijuana impairment.”
Filmed in Weymouth, the ad is entitled “Neighborhoods.” It will begin airing Tuesday on cable TV, said Corey Welford and Jim Conroy, two of the campaign operatives running the anti-marijuana effort, Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. The ad will air on Boston-area broadcast stations next week, they said, declining to specify how much money is behind the effort.
Among the top donors to the anti-legalization campaign, according to a disclosure on the half-minute ad: Partners HealthCare and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated $1 million, the campaign said.
Partners spokesman Rich Copp in a statement said:
“As health care providers, we are concerned about reports of experiences in other states, particularly with the uncertainty of the safety and dosing of marijuana presented in highly potent edible forms. More research and understanding is needed before broadly exposing the public to this new risk.”
Adelson, who has endorsed Trump, could not be reached.
Question 4 would legalize marijuana for recreational use on Dec. 15 for adults 21 and older. Stores could start selling it Jan. 1, 2018. Using marijuana in public would remain illegal.
Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos. Click here to subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics.
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