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Anti-Marijuana Group Asks Muni To Pull Pro-Initiative Advertising

(Photo provided by Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol)

(Photo provided by Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol)

The group Big Marijuana Big Mistake is taking issue with pro-marijuana initiative bus ads, and they’re asking the Municipality of Anchorage to intervene.

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On Monday, the first pro-marijuana ads of the campaign season started rolling around on city buses. They show a pint glass of beer, a tumbler of hard liquor, and then a cannabis leaf with the word “safer” written over it.

Then, on Wednesday, a bright red sticker was added, reading “Our opponents AGREE!” Those stickers were inspired by a comment Big Marijuana Big Mistake spokesperson Tom Tougas made at a recent debate in Soldotna.

TOUGAS: When you think of this initiative, and you say, ‘marijuana is safer than alcohol,’ and I don’t disagree with that …

That audio was released on Friday by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a group that’s sponsoring a ballot initiative to do exactly that. They saw it as a major concession to one of their key arguments, and thought it would fit well into their bus campaign.

Big Marijuana Big Mistake doesn’t agree. The marijuana opponents sent a letter to the People Mover Administration on later that afternoon asking that the red stickers be removed, calling them a “gross misrepresentation” of the anti-marijuana position.

Deborah Williams, the deputy treasurer of Big Marijuana Big Mistake, says that Tougas’ comments were taken out of context, and that he’s subsequently refuted them. (In a press release issued by the campaign on Thursday, Tougas stated “I believe that marijuana is a dangerous drug and am disappointed at this effort to misrepresent what I said.”) Williams adds that to suggest her group believes marijuana is safer than alcohol is “simply untrue.”

“They did not check with the coordinating committee of Big Marijuana Big Mistake,” says Williams. “If they had, they would know that the opposition does not agree with that, period, end of story. The signs need to come down because they represent a clear misstatement of fact.”

Big Marijuana Big Mistake did not check with their rivals about voluntarily removing their stickers before going to the municipality. But even if they had, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol thinks it’s on more than solid ground with the stickers. Taylor Bickford is a spokesperson for the initiative, and he says it’s inappropriate for Big Marijuana Big Mistake to “engage in an effort to censor” their campaign.

(Photo provided by Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol)

(Photo provided by Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol)

“We wouldn’t be in this position if they hadn’t made the statements they made in a public setting,” says Bickford. “That’s ultimately what all this is based on. They actually accused us of lying and fabricating the statement. And that’s why we decided to release the audio, so that the public understands that this is a statement that was made by one of their spokespeople. It was not a lie. It was not fabricated. It happened.”

As the letter was sent Friday afternoon, the People Mover Administration did not respond to Big Marijuana Big Mistake before the close of the business day. The marijuana initiative will appear on the ballot November 4.

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