- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

Metro subway stations will soon display a batch of ads promoting the legalization and taxation of marijuana as a means to improve sex, save taxes and protect children.

The poster ads, sponsored by the Massachusetts-based nonprofit group Change the Climate Inc., had been displayed on Metro buses, billboards and bus shelters during the past month. They are expected to be posted at 10 subway stations as early as Monday, said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, chairman of Metro’s Board of Directors, said, “These ads are intolerable, and we need to review our policies so that First Amendment considerations are not allowed to compel us to accept this type of advertising.”

Under its policy for public service advertising, Metro reserves 10 percent of its advertising space for nonprofit groups.

Joseph White, founder and president of Change the Climate, said his group is not advocating the use of marijuana but is seeking to prod discussion about drug laws. The ad campaign is the group’s third in the metropolitan area since 2001.

“Washington, D.C., is one of our favorite targets because here are politicians who are standing in the way of change,” said Mr. White of Greenfield, Mass., a 48-year-old father of three boys.

On its Web site (www.changetheclimate.org), the group says it aims to “raise the hackles of America’s ‘morality police’” with its “Enjoy better sex!” ad, which shows a young couple in a romantic embrace. The group says the drug has been used by “many different cultures as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years” and “has been used in India for at least 3,000 years to increase libido and conquer impotence.”

But in its Web site’s “Myths & Facts” section, the group argues against the assertion that marijuana use can cause impotence, stating, “Most studies of humans have found that marijuana has no impact on sex hormones.”

Change the Climate’s poster showing a smiling teenage girl does not say how legalizing and taxing marijuana would “Protect our Children!” but the group says on its Web site that regulating pot, like alcohol, would make it more difficult for children to acquire the drug.

According to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse last year, 38.7 percent of eighth-graders said they had used alcohol in the past 12 months, compared with 14.6 percent who said they had used marijuana during the same period.

Joyce Nalepka, founder and president of Drug-Free Kids: America’s Challenge, said the ads send “a dangerous message to children.”

“I think it is irresponsible to promote legalization of marijuana in a country where it already is a major problem,” said Mrs. Nalepka, who founded the Silver Spring-based group in 1997. “We have in every city in this country problems with drugs, violence and trying to protect all children.”

Two years ago, Metro officials rejected Change of Climate’s ad campaign but reversed their decision after the American Civil Liberties Union took up the group’s cause, citing the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

“While the [subject] may be controversial to some people, we have a commitment to present all sides of every issue,” said Mr. Taubenkibel. “As long as an ad is not vulgar, crude, uses no four-letter words and presents their viewpoint, then they have a right to go up.”

Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said he believes in the First Amendment, “but we are being carried to limits here that no one can tolerate.

“When it leads us down this kind of path, we must find another option,” he said of the ads.

The Washington Post first reported about Change the Climate’s ads.

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