Hungry for Some Pro Bono That'll Put a Smile on Your Face?

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A couple of weeks ago, while cruising around Denver for the Democratic National Convention, I ran into Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. The DPA might strike some as simply a pro-marijuana group, but Ethan and the gang like to think of themselves as an organization "promoting policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights."

Now I'm not a man partial to the joys of THC. My mama raised me to believe that Jesus intended us to relieve our sorrows with booze, not some "drug" (though prescription medication is A-OK). Of course, that's sort of the point the DPA tries to get across and, at the risk of sounding like a hippie, I'm more than sympathetic to their cause. Why should it be legal for Chauncey Q. Fratboy to down a pint of Jack Daniel's with a six-pack chaser in a public place when Spidey "Whoa Dude" McSpliff can't even mellow out with a joint in his own bedroom? I think we all know which of those two is most likely to hop into a car and drive around looking for a skull to crack, a woman to harass or a telephone pole to ram into.

At any rate, Ethan and I got to talking, and he said something to me that I felt needed to be passed on--especially as it's Advertising Week and all you agency people are trying to think of ways to do good with your work. Sayeth Ethan: "I sure wish we could get some pro bono help from all those folks who produce ads for the drug czar's office and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America during the day and kick back with a joint in the evening."

He didn't call anyone a hypocrite. But I will! Surprisingly -- to me at any rate -- the DPA isn't completely anti-anti-weed ads. "We like some of the partnership's ads to the extent they discourage drug misuse. But some of those ads make no sense except as propaganda for sustaining the government's failed war on drugs."

So what kind of work does he envision? On the serious side, he sees a comparison of the risks of alcohol and marijuana with their different treatment under the law (see my second paragraph). Or look at a just-released FBI report showing almost 800,000 arrests last year for marijuana possession and tie it to the current economic mess. How's this for a message? Imagine what "the combined savings of no longer enforcing marijuana laws combined with tax revenues on legal marijuana sales could pay for in an era of government budget crises."

Of course, the feds might have something to say about it. More important, the alcohol lobby might not like it. Most important, the shop that took this on would never work for a lucrative beer account again.

So maybe something humorous could work instead. Ethan suggested using photos of prominent and highly respected Americans who have admitted (or been outed as) smoking marijuana: presidents and presidential candidates, other national politicians, Supreme Court justices, leading business figures, cultural figures and educators.

"At the top of the page, the words 'THEY SMOKED POT' and at the bottom of the page, 'LOOK WHERE THEY ARE NOW.'"

See that, agencies? He's done half the work for you.
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