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Supporters, foes of pot legalization post rival ads in NY Times

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Supporters and opponents of the federal ban on marijuana took to the pages of The New York Times this weekend with full-page color advertisements that highlight the fast-evolving debate in the United States about medical and recreational drug use.

The advertisements followed The New York Times' decision last month in a series of editorials to call for repealing the ban, the biggest U.S. newspaper to do so. Opinion polls show a majority of Americans now back the legalization of pot.

The ads are also designed to undercut pot's decades-old association with the counterculture and drop-outs by featuring people dressed in everyday working attire.

In an ad in Sunday's edition of the paper, Seattle-based Privateer Holdings features its medical marijuana website Leafly.com, which helps users to find pot dispensaries and to choose strains.

The ad depicts a woman jogger in Spandex gliding past a brownstone building as a crisply dressed professional man stands atop its steps with a bundle of papers under his arm.

"Ian chose an indica cannabis strain to relieve his MS symptoms," a bubble next to him says.

"While fighting cancer, Molly preferred a sativa cannabis," says the bubble next to the jogger.

Explaining the decision to use ordinary working people in the ad, Privateer Holdings' chief executive, Brendan Kennedy, said: "This product and this industry are still depicted as sub-culture or counter-culture. That's just not the reality."

Last month, New York became the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first in the nation to approve state-sanctioned recreational marijuana for consumers aged 21 and older.

However, Saturday's edition of The New York Times carried an ad from a group opposed to pot legalization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and allied organizations.

It featured a suit-and-tie-clad executive leaning over a conference-room table with a photo of a grinning, bandana-wearing hippy superimposed over his face. The word "Perception" is next to his flowing hair. The suit has the word "Reality."

"The legalization of marijuana means ushering in an entirely new group of corporations whose primary source of revenue is a highly habit-forming product," the advertisement says.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Gareth Jones)

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