Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Fans attending a major NASCAR race this weekend will see a most unlikely video posted on a giant video screen shortly before entering the track: a pro-marijuana legalization ad.
Outside the NASCAR Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, the same track that hosts the famed Indianapolis 500, Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest pro-marijuana legalization advocacy group, has purchased space to air - dozens of times over the weekend - a video that pushes the theme that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
It marks the first time a pro-marijuana legalization ad will appear so close to an entrance gate of a major sporting event. The Brickyard 400, in its 20th year, is regarded as one of NASCAR's biggest races.
But the video ad isn't just pro-marijuana. While it's made to look like a beer ad, its tone sounds anti-alcohol. Unlike beer, a narrator in the video says, marijuana has "no calories," "no hangovers" and, the ad says, "it's not linked to violence or reckless behavior."
The video ends with this tagline: "Less harmful than alcohol, and time to treat it that way."
NASCAR has no affiliation with the advertiser or the company selling the inventory, and the ad will not appear anywhere on track property. NASCAR executives declined to comment.
Even then, it makes for a potentially uncomfortable pairing for NASCAR. Crown Royal Whisky is a major sponsor of the race. Miller Lite also is a sponsor.
For the Marijuana Policy Project, the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group behind the video ad, it's a potential PR bonanza. Over the three-day weekend race, upwards of 600,000 fans may attend the race. The privately-owned track seats 225,000.
"We think it's critical that the public recognize that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol," says Mason Tvert, who created the spot and who is a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We wanted to reach out to an audience that clearly appreciates that adults should be able to use beer and alcohol responsibly. They should also be able to use marijuana responsibly - since it's less harmful."
He says he bought the ad space from Grazie Media for a "non-profit" rate of $2,200. The spot, which he says he and two staffers made with stock film footage for about $350 over three days, is scheduled to appear 72 times over the three-day period.
J. Douglas Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement that the track is not affiliated with Grazie Media and the ad is not on track property "or on property over which we have any control."
Grazie Media executives declined to comment.