Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

January 10, 2006 - Daily Bruin (CA Edu)

Column: Government, Media Efforts Ineffective Anti-Drugs

Unrealistic Advertisements and Tenuous Studies Do Little to Sway Teenagers' Beliefs About Marijuana

By Daniel Atherton, Daily Bruin Columnist

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Winter break was going swimmingly until my mother picked the middle of a perfectly good day to teach me a life lesson by wrapping herself in a blanket. She took it in her hands, licked an edge of it, and then rolled herself up, all while plaintively asking me, "What am I? What am I?" When she saw that I was stumped speechless, she gave the answer: "A joint!" I learned my lesson about the evils of marijuana, and we went out for two heaping bowls of chocolate chip ice cream. Mmm!

OK, so that didn't actually happen. But that's apparently the sort of parent-child interaction that the Office of National Drug Control Policy has in mind in order to prevent marijuana usage because I did see an ad on television last week that depicted the above scenario playing out almost exactly -- just without the ice cream.

Evidently, the discourse about marijuana in this country has been reduced to playing charades with home decor items. Keep that in mind the next time your father pantomimes taking a huge hit from the living room floor lamp.

We've all seen the ads that the ONDCP puts out. There are versions aimed at parents like the one above and also variants geared toward teenagers. The tag lines always point out helpful, totally legal alternatives to drugs, such as "Friendship: My Anti-Drug," "Responsibility: My Anti-Drug," or "Bolt-Action Assault Rifles: My Anti-Drug."

My favorite of these shows a sad grandmother alone in her apartment. The announcer says, "Just tell your grandma you blew off dinner plans you made with her because you were stoned. She'll understand."

I must not understand much about marijuana because it doesn't seem to me that a stoned teenager would blow off dinner plans of any sort. Not only would he most likely show up at Grandma's, but he'd probably bring all his buddies and eat every scrap of food in the apartment while Grandma scurried into the bedroom to avoid errant Hacky Sacks.

I wonder if we'll see an extra-strong flurry of anti-marijuana ads in this new year due to all the recent news stories with a pro-marijuana tilt.

First came word in October that the FBI was thinking about relaxing its hiring rules regarding past marijuana usage, probably realizing that they had been ruling out almost everyone who has ever attended college or been within 50 feet of a Phish or Snoop Dogg concert.

Then, in November, voters in Denver approved an initiative decriminalizing adults 21 and over if they are found in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, giving new meaning to the term "Mile High City" (royalty fees for that joke go to the headline writers at the Rocky Mountain News).

Finally, on Jan. 4, Rhode Island joined California and nine other states in legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. The Rhode Island Legislature did not explain their decision in the face of the Supreme Court's June ruling that medical marijuana users could still be prosecuted under federal law except to say, "We put up a Jimi Hendrix poster and it looks awesome with a black light."

In light of all these developments, it must be getting continually harder for the ONDCP to convince teenagers that smoking pot is irrevocably harmful.

After all, scientific data continues to be mixed, and the conspicuous lack of support for do-it-yourself medical methamphetamines or medical angel dust shows to anybody with five functioning brain cells that marijuana is not in the same league as more hardcore drugs.

There are no undisputed studies showing that marijuana actually acts as the famed "gateway drug" to worse substances like our high school health teachers would have us believe; any evidence touted by the government in favor of the gateway theory is countered by a study saying that there aren't any numbers to back this claim up.

Most people know these things, which is why a December Government Accountability Office report found that, despite the claims of the drug czars and the ONDCP, there is no data to suggest that the U.S. government is actually doing anything more effective with the $40 billion a year spent on the drug war than flushing it down a toilet. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has also found more specifically that the youth advertising campaign, which costs $150 million yearly, has had no effect on teens' views about marijuana.

Whether you think marijuana should be legalized and whether you think teens should be publicly discouraged from using it, it's relatively apparent that the condescending, counter-effective and downright stupid anti-marijuana ads in the media should be stopped or have their message changed.

There is far too much information out there right now about marijuana for idiotic TV ads to change teens' minds. Seeing perky mothers wrapping themselves in blankets just doesn't seem as convincing to me as more credible information that teens can easily find from other sources. Plus, their parents are starting to give themselves rug burns. Talk about a big charade.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact