Mason Tvert, right, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, talks to reporters while standing near a billboard that was supposed to feature a marijuana ad on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. (John Ingold, The Denver Post)

Dude, where’s my billboard? Weed ad’s big unveiling hits snag

Mason Tvert, Colorado’s indefatigable pot spox, got stood up Wednesday, which probably wouldn’t have been so bad if CNN hadn’t been there to document it.

But there they were, camera crew set and ready at noon for Tvert’s press conference where he planned to unveil a billboard paid for by marijuana advocates that takes a new approach to promoting responsible marijuana use. The billboard wasn’t, though.

“An issue came up with their installer this morning,” he told reporters through barely suppressed frustration. “It should be up. … They said they should be here in 30 to 40 minutes.”

While reporters took turns trading lines — “The Channel 4 camera guy is joking that someone rolled it up and smoked it,” one said — Tvert worked the phones to figure out when his PR nightmare would be over.


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Dude, where’s my billboard? Weed ad's big unveiling hits snag
Ah, there it is: The billboard is up Wednesday afternoon, at West 8th Avenue and Federal Boulevard in Denver. (Provided by Mason Tvert)

The goof provided a somewhat fitting — if unintended — context for the event. Tvert and other marijuana advocates contend they launched the new ad campaign after being let down by government-sponsored campaigns they believe missed the mark. Basically, in their view, if the state wasn’t going to do it right, they would.

Tvert pointed to the series of ads the state produced to discourage stoned driving. They feature dazed-looking people making stupid mistakes — like hanging a TV wrong or forgetting to get propane for the grill — to illustrate their message that being high is OK but driving high is not. To Tvert, they’re backhanded slaps at marijuana consumers.

“Insulting your target audience is not the best way to get them to listen to your message,” he said Wednesday.

Tvert said he wants the new campaign to treat marijuana consumers like people capable of making responsible decisions with cannabis, as long as they’re educated about it. Hence the first billboard, at West 8th Avenue and Federal Boulevard in Denver, which shows a red-haired woman sitting on a hotel-room bed with her face in her hands. “Don’t let a candy bar ruin your vacation,” the billboard says.

“With edibles, start low and go slow.”

The message is a not-at-all-veiled jab at New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who had just such an edibles-induced head-in-hands moment while visiting Colorado. Before the billboard was even up, Dowd had given her approval.

“I love the billboard,” she told The Daily Beast in an e-mail. “I’m going to make it my Christmas card.”


The Maureen Dowd edibles saga: The New York Times columnist had a scary tale to tell about edibles after she visited Denver. Then the questions and controversy started


Tvert, the communications director at the Marijuana Policy Project and one of legalization’s chief architects in Colorado, said he designed the ad himself and pulled the image of the redhead from stock photos. He says the campaign will also include a website and print ads, including some he expects to run in marijuana-themed publications like The Hemp Connoisseur as public-service messages.

Just before 1 on Wednesday, the crew finally arrived to install the billboard ad — though CNN had already left, telling Tvert they would just call it “a billboard expected to launch today.”

Tvert looked up as the crew pulled down the billboard’s previous tenant, an ad for this weekend’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Was Tvert conflicted about booting such a good cause from its perch?

“Actually,” he said, forever on message, “the only thing that’s really showing promise for helping Alzheimer’s …”


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