A Republican gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut just narced on current Governor Ned Lamont for tweeting a link to a country song that briefly mentions weed.
Earlier this week, the governor tweeted about how “Connecticut has everything,” including “the nation's best pizza, lobster rolls, college basketball, beaches, mountains,” and more. But surprisingly, it's not the “best pizza” claim that got people riled up. The governor also added that “we have country music” and linked to a short promotional video showcasing a “toe-tapping track about our great state.”
The 18-second video features the “First Ever Connecticut Country Song,” written by country musician Rusty Gear. In the brief snippet linked in the tweet, the singer-songwriter thanks “the governor for the blessings that we got,” especially the fact that “we can gamble on the internet, and it's cool to smoke some pot.” This oblique reference to weed immediately kicked off a debate about whether the governor was somehow using the tweet to actively advertise cannabis to children.
“Our governor should not be encouraging kids to smoke marijuana because Ned Lamont believes it’s 'cool to smoke pot',” wrote Bob Stefanowski, a Republican who just happens to be challenging Lamont in the upcoming governor's race. To take matters even further, the candidate penned an angry letter to state Attorney General William Tong, asking him to investigate whether Lamont violated the state's cannabis advertising laws.
In the letter, Stefanowski says that Lamont's video promoted cannabis use “without regard for the under-age audience that he influences.” The letter goes on to argue that this promotion violates a state statute prohibiting cannabis advertisements to anyone under 21. “The law also indicates that any entity that advertises, including the state, which has a clear economic interest in marijuana sales, should be held accountable when the statute is violated.”
So, according to Stefanowski's logic, children are going to read the governor's tweet, listen to the song, and then smoke weed just because Rusty Gear says it's “cool.” Connecticut's new adult-use law does specifically prohibit cannabis advertising on any platform unless 90 percent of the audience can reasonably be expected to be 21 or older. The governor currently has over 90,000 followers, though, and the idea that more than 9,000 children are actively interacting with a politician's social media account definitely beggars belief.
It would be quite a difficult undertaking to actually verify the age of all of the governor's followers, but it would be even harder to claim that the governor is actually advertising cannabis. Connecticut’s adult-use law only prohibits the actual advertising of weed, but the song in question only mentions the fact that it is legal. No actual product or business was specifically named or advertised in the song.
Stefanowski also asked Tong to investigate whether or not Lamont used taxpayer money to produce the ad. Max Reiss, the governor's communications director, said that no state funds were spent on the promotion of this ad, which is not a surprise since Twitter is a free service. The governor's office staff did produce the video segment that accompanied the music snippet in the tweet while on the clock, though.
The attorney general's office did not comment about whether or not they would pursue this claim, but Tong made it clear that he saw right through Stefanowski's motive for writing the letter. “This is not the first time Bob Stefanowski has asked the Office of the Attorney General to investigate his political opponent,” said Tong, according to the CT Mirror.
“Bob Stefanowski is a candidate and these repeated requests — in the middle of an active campaign — are inappropriate and unethical,” the attorney general continued. “I have made that clear to him previously. I will not allow my office, and our investigative authority, to be weaponized by a political campaign. As Attorney General, I represent the Governor in his official capacity, without regard to the Governor’s party affiliation. Were Mr. Stefanowski the Governor, I would take the same position as I do now.”