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January 20, 2005 - (Saint John, CN NK)

Give Us The Straight Dope

If You Demonize Marijuana, Drug Education Goes Up In Smoke

By John Mazerolle (Note: Humour columnist John Mazerolle provides free and addictive ecstasy to his readers every week. Hear him Thursdays on CBC Radio One's Information Morning in Saint John (every week), as well as Fredericton and Moncton (occasionally).

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Has there ever been a dumber slogan than "Just say 'no' to drugs?" There in five words you have the ultimate in institutional stupidity writ small. Was there really a high paid agency somewhere that decided, after days of deliberation around a boardroom table, that the best way to teach kids was to tell them "no" and watch as they fell in line?

AGENCY REP: Hey, what if we just told children not to do it?

That's what I did for my kids and they turned out okay. In fact my son Jimmy was just named most improved inmate!

"Just say no" is not in as high rotation as it used to be (at least on this side of the border), but it still nicely sums up the simplistic philosophy of too many people and organizations who want to curb drug use.

I've been thinking about this because of two stories in the news lately: The RCMP warning parents that "designer drugs" are on the rise in New Brunswick, and Saint John Police charging a Cannabis Cafe owner in Saint John with possession for the purpose of trafficking.

It's the condescension in the anti-drug lobby's approach - and society's approach in general - that bothers me. In a nutshell, it's that all drugs are bad and, for the most part, that all drugs are equally bad. Crack cocaine? Evil. Ecstasy? Evil.

Marijuana? Evil. It's a no-go zone, kiddies.

Don't you worry your pretty little heads. Just say "no." Even someone whose brain resembled an egg sizzling in a frying pan could tell you that the just-say-no approach is idiotic. First of all, the condescending tone sounds like it is aimed at toddlers, a subsection of society that already gets its hallucinogenic fix from sniffing glue sticks, watching SpongeBob SquarePants, and eating breakfast cereal that contains food colouring and six essential kinds of sugar.

And anyone actually old enough to be thinking about drugs will feel downright motivated by the word "no" because, as everyone knows, teenagers can't believe that anyone would have the unmitigated gall to tell them what to do ("unmitigated gall" being a popular teenage saying).

If you started a campaign tomorrow that told teens to just say 'no' to chewing through high-tension wire with their teeth, large groups of teenagers would be hanging out on the country's suspension bridges by sundown, bragging about their widest wire and showing off how many teeth they're missing.

Of course, you already know this. You're an intelligent, sensible person who knows that simplistic blanket statements are silly and not very useful. You are not a member of the anti-drug lobby.

Nobody seems to understand that condescending to kids hurts the anti-drug cause. When I was in school, I was told in certain terms that marijuana use was right up there with beating up handicapped puppies on the list of unacceptable activities.

I was confused when I saw lots of people partaking in the odd puff with no ill effects. They weren't falling from a ceiling beam to the floor (a favourite cautionary marijuana story of one teacher), they seemed to have full use of their IQ points, and they didn't feel an overwhelming need to call me "dude" or "brother" or "Beavis."

Here's the irony: Hearing that marijuana is demon weed - or watching someone taken to court over selling the stuff - sends a terrible message to young people. Because when they figure out that marijuana is not so bad and then look at other warnings - that ecstasy is a potential killer on the rise in N.B.- they think, "Whatever." I know I do.

I saw a newspaper article about the dangers of designer drugs and I thought, "Cops are supposed to scare people." And then I saw a story about kids who had their lives torn apart by ecstasy and I thought, "Fair enough, but is ecstasy any worse than alcohol? Or better yet in New Brunswick, is it any worse than Video Lottery Terminals?"

I'm not suggesting that there is nothing to the warnings. I'm just saying that I don't trust them because I've been lied to before.

I guess it does show that marijuana is an incredibly powerful drug, though. It can affect the brain function of people only talking about it.

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