In the past decade, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has used his money to fund such noble ventures as Newt Gingrich's doomed presidential run and starting a war with Iran. Lately, he’s turned his attention to another strange (and equally doomed) campaign: stopping the legalization of marijuana in states where he doesn’t even live.
Massachusetts is currently considering ballot measure "Question 4" that would legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana, which 60 percent of Americans support. Sheldon Adelson, however, does not support legal pot, so he's trying to sink the campaign.
The Las Vegas billionaire reportedly donated 1 million to a group opposing the measure, Safe and Healthy Massachusetts. Before Adelson’s contribution, groups opposed to legal pot had raised $634,000, while legalization advocates were working with $3.3 million, according to the Boston Globe.
“His generosity will prove critical in preventing a billion-dollar marijuana industry from establishing a foothold in our communities,” a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts spokesman said in a statement.
Since pot prohibitionists don’t have much medical science (or history) on their side, as a genre anti-legalization ads tend to rely on misleading data and menacing voiceovers. The ad produced by this Adelson-bankrolled group is no different.
“Question 4 would allow thousands of pot shops and marijuana operators throughout Massachusetts. In neighborhoods like yours,” a female voiceover threatens, as the video shows a harried-looking mother driving her small daughter through a dystopian new world where every suburban storefront is a cannabis dispensary instead of, I guess, a Burger King.
In fact, the state's legal marijuana industry would be tightly regulated. According to the Yes on 4 campaign, if the law passes, cities and towns will have the right to limit, and even prohibit, marijuana businesses. But few are likely to outright prohibit marijuana establishments, given what they stand to gain. As Adam Peck points out in Think Progress, the legal pot industry generates significant tax revenue, which can serve as a welcome corrective to budgetary shortfalls that have led to cuts in social programs.
But moving on. Will the measure poison your children? Definitely. The next scene shows her daughter running up to a delightful spread of pink candies, adulterated, we suppose, by the devil weed.
There have been incidents of people eating pot candy not knowing what it was, like the Omaha dad who famously ate pot brownies and had an unpleasant exchange with the family cat. But that’s why industries are regulated: there are measures, such as clearly marking pot products, that can help prevent accidental use.
Next up, road safety. “Pot Fuels Surge in Road Safety Deaths,” an NBC headline flashes on screen as the mother continues to navigate her living nightmare. Actually, there’s no evidence of that. Here’s what the study cited in the NBC piece actually found:
As medical marijuana sales expanded into 20 states, legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999, according to a new study from Columbia University published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
It would stand to reason that as pot becomes easier to get, a sampling of any random group of people might yield higher traces of the drug. That doesn’t mean that pot caused the car crashes, especially given that pot stays in your body long after its psychoactive effects have worn off. Research compiled by NORML, the ant-prohibition group, appears to show that marijuana does not play a huge role in car crashes. One theory is that drivers who are high tend to drive more slowly and carefully, unlike drunk drivers, who are more likely to drive recklessly fast.
The schlocky ad concludes in a predictable manner for the genre, with a teenaged boy walking out of a pot dispensary. But he’s not just any teenaged boy. He’s the woman's son. “Mom!” he says, shocked. “Kevin??!?” his mother cries in horror, pain, anger and disappointment.
He could be your son. He could be anybody’s son. Actually the law would limit pot product sales to people over 21, so it would be your adult son, whom you'd probably want getting high instead of binge drinking in college.