Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jun 2007
Source: Austin Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2007 Austin Chronicle Corp.
Author: Jordan Smith
Column: Reefer Madness


ONDCP Goes Old School

When in doubt, go old-school   or, at least, why not give it a shot,
especially if you don't have anything   and I mean anything   else
going for you? But remember: Retro isn't always hip   and when it
comes to the sad, sad (and ever more sad) White House Office of
National Drug Control Policy, "retro" is just plainass

Case in point: Now that summer is here, so is the ONDCP's latest
attempt at scaring you into believing that drugs   no, rather,
marijuana, is bad, bad, bad. According to the new ONDCP youth
anti-drug media campaign report released by the feds this month, kids
(that is youth, ages 12-17) who smoke pot are "at least" four times as
likely to join a gang as their nontoking brethren.

Yes! Gangs! Pot smoking leads kids to gangs!

And if you don't know what that means   OK, the ONDCP is here to point
you in the right direction if you're confused.

Kids who smoke pot are more likely to be violent, to get into fights,
and   gasp!   to steal.


Sound familiar?

Are you looking around for clues that you're actually in the 21st
century and not stuck in, say, 1936? Perhaps you're recalling a
certain bit of black-and-white cinematic propaganda, in which the evil
weed causes good boys to go bad   to rape, to kill, and to go
completely insane.

Yes, I'm talking about Reefer Madness (originally known as Tell Your
Children)   the most boring, grainy piece of government-championed
propaganda ever released on the big screen. Just when you thought that
piece of shit was gone (except for the occasional reappearance on
cable, complete with utterly awful sound quality), the ONDCP has
conjured its ghost, distilling its smoke-dope-and-die message into a
neat little five-page report. Whereas the B&W Reefer took a painful 66
minutes to detail the horrors of the "assassin of youth" (a phrase
coined by William Randolph Hearst, king of the yellow-bellied
sensation mongers, whose ulterior motive   money   prompted him to hop
on the hophead train, spewing   err, publishing   a litany of fiction
alleging that pot did actually cause madness and violence), the ONDCP
has consolidated its propaganda into a tidy little five-pager. (OK,
perhaps that's a blessing in disguise.) Although it is not published
under a Hearst paper banner, it is no less inflammatory. In fact, it
is as baseless a work of fear-mongering propaganda as was its
predecessor, the infamous Reefer Madness.

Congrats, ONDCP!

According to the new report, teens who use drugs, and "particularly
marijuana," are nine times more likely to use other drugs (the feds'
beloved, yet completely unsubstantiated "gateway theory") and are five
times more likely to steal; 39% of teens who report having used drugs
recently, the report asserts, have also admitted to stealing, or
trying to steal, something worth at least $50 at some point during the
past year. (And, no, I don't think they're talking about stealing pot
out of a sibling's sock drawer   though that could easily be worth
$50, depending on how swank your sib is.)

Worst of all, though, is the ONDCP's assertion that "children" who use
marijuana are "nearly" four times more likely to join a gang than
drug-free kids are. Interestingly, the ONDCP backs up this "fact" with
the following information: 94% of gang members are male; 49% are
Hispanic; 37% are black; and just 8% are white.

In other words, according to our federal government, pot smokers are
predominately minorities. Now do you understand their whole "violence"

No? Neither do I. And neither does Matthew B. Robinson, a criminal
justice professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina,
who is the co-author of the recently published Lies, Damned Lies, and
Drug War Statistics. To Robinson, this kind of propagandistic crapola
is par for the course.

The ONDCP, desperate to hold on to its incredibly large (and amazingly
unjustifiable) $12 billion-plus budget, has to come up with ways to
reassure us that it's on top of this whole war on drugs thing. (Bless
their little cold, black hearts   the bureaucrats at the ONDCP may be
the only sad saps hanging on to this pathetic notion that the drug war
is actually something that you can "win.") And, if that means
resorting to an unfounded racist stereotype, then so be it: "They have
to promote a fear of drugs in order to continue the drug war," says
Robinson. "What's amazing about it is that they're making two claims
that don't fit together.

The vast majority of [marijuana users] are white.

But the majority of gang members aren't white?" Robinson

In order to protect the agency, Robinson says, the ONDCP and its
leader, the drug czar John Walters, "sells fear." They tell us we
should be "afraid of drugs and afraid of people of color," he says.
"Link the two together, and you've got your budget."

Well, that sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? Engage time machine:
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, lawmakers in the
Southwestern states   including Texas   were in a pickle.

During the preceding decades of prosperity, Mexican immigrants were
welcomed to the Southwest as a needed source of labor.

By the time the Depression set in, however, this same immigrant
population was now viewed with suspicion and fear, seen as a threat to
remaining American jobs. The problem, of course, was what to do   or,
plainly, how to get rid of them. Pot was the key. Mexicans were known
to grow and smoke pot, lawmakers reasoned; making pot illegal
demonizing it, linking its use to violence   would certainly help move
those Mexicans back south across the border or, just as good, lock 'em
up in jail. Either way, problem solved!

And so it was, thanks in no small part to Hearst and his newspapers.
The pages of his papers were filled with the same sort of
unsubstantiated crap that the ONDCP has now regurgitated into its
current report.

Same old lie, new day; shame on you, ONDCP.
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