Is Weed Safer Than Football?

Five pro-marijuana ads making the case that marijuana use is safer than football are about to hit billboards above the freeways of East Rutherford, N.J., the town hosting the Super Bowl on Sunday. The billboards around MetLife Stadium, which will see the highly-anticipated clash between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, are creations of the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. The group says that not only is cannabis a safer choice than drinking alcohol — it's safer than playing football.

As Washington and Colorado are the only two states that have legalized marijuana, the sheer coincidence that they're competing against each other in an event focused around the word "bowl" has not been lost on the media. Some of the better puns journalists have conjured up include the "Weed Bowl," "Stoner Bowl," and the highly imaginative THC-Hawks (get it?). Washington marijuana growers are even naming strains after players in Sunday's game, including one particularly strong type dubbed "Beast Mode," in honor of the Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, according to the Seattle Times.

The Marijuana Policy Project recently posted a billboard declaring, "Stop Driving Players to Drink," outside Sports Authority Field in Denver, calling now-legal marijuana the "safer choice" for NFL players.

“Hopefully it’s going to inspire people to talk to one another about marijuana and particularly its relative harms compared to alcohol and football,” said Mason Tvert, the director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, of the billboards.

One of the billboards highlights the enormous number of marijuana-related arrests in the U.S. in 2012 (over 700,000), as it's roughly the same as the number of attendees at the previous ten Super Bowl tournaments, including this Sunday's game.

Legalization of marijuana is gaining more public support, with a new poll saying that 55 percent of Americans support efforts to make it legal. President Obama even said that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol in an interview with The New Yorker magazine. Tvert visited the NFL New York City headquarters to drop off a petition that called on the organization to stop punishing their players for using marijuana, and says that the league wouldn't punish a player for using alcohol. The petition has over 12,000 signatures.

The NFL has come under fire over recent months after the the extent of injuries sustained from playing the game was revealed in a PBS documentary on the sport's concussion crisis. Now, the NFL has even suggested that these injuries might be treated with medical marijuana.

Images: Marijuana Policy Project