USA TODAY - The freeways surrounding MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. are about to be plastered with five billboards advocating the use of marijuana, and, in some cases, attacking football just miles from the game's biggest stage.
Washington and Colorado are the only two states to have legalized marijuana, so the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization based in Washington D.C., decided this year's Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos would be an opportune time to get their message out.
"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 MPP.
This isn't the first time MPP has tried to steal the NFL's stage. The group posted a billboard outside of Denver's Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in September telling the league to "Stop Driving Players to Drink," and, as a football leaned against a foaming beer glass advised: "A safer choice is now legal here."
"I think a lot of people will be shocked at just how many people are getting in trouble for using a less harmful substance than alcohol," Tvert said. "When you're sitting in a full stadium and you think about the idea of everyone in there being arrested 10 times over, it really gets you thinking about just how many people that is."
Tvert is in New York City this week and says he is heading to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's office Wednesday to drop off a petition calling on the NFL to stop punishing players for using marijuana. He said that, as of Monday afternoon, the petition has over 12,000 signatures.
Medical experts are torn when it comes to this drug. In a USA TODAY article from last week, Stuart Gitlow, Director of the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said there's no benefit.
"It's simply that people want the freedom to be stoned," he said. "That's all it is. And there's a great deal of risk."
Donald Abrams, chief of oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, argues from the other side.
"In my 37 years as a physician, the number of patients I've admitted to the hospital with complications from marijuana use is zero," he said. "The number I've admitted due to alcohol use is profound."
As far as using marijuana for medical reasons, last week Goodell didn't waver from his message about use in the NFL.
"I'm not a medical expert," he said. "We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now."
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