Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jan 2006
Source: Daily Bruin (UCLA, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2006, ASUCLA Student Media
Author: Daniel Atherton, Daily Bruin Columnist


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

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.

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

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 antimarijuana ads in
this new year due to all the recent news stories with a promarijuana

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 antimarijuana 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.
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