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High Comedy

Discussion in 'Marijuana News from The USA' started by Superjoint, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. By Michael Wallach
    Source: American Prospect

    Remember the ads that first aired during the 2002 Super Bowl alleging that drug sales help fund terrorism? Never mind the continuing strength of al-Qaeda, the ads seemed to say, or how that organization might benefit from a U.S. attack on Iraq: It's those evil pot smokers who are threatening America. Anti-drug ads have continued to play the terrorism card for the last 18 months. And now Congress is looking to make sure that such ads continue.

    The truth is that no anti-drug ads have ever really proved effective. In 2000, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the results of a five-year study showing that such ads have been a dismal failure. Kids saw the ads -- the OMB reported they saw them in huge numbers -- but without much effect: The OMB report stated that there "is no evidence that the ads had a direct effect on youth behavior."
    The OMB wasn't alone. Congress also reviewed the media campaign and was equally dismayed. "The conferees are deeply disturbed by the lack of evidence that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has had any appreciable impact on youth drug use," according to the fiscal year 2003 appropriations conference report. "If the campaign continues to fail to demonstrate effectiveness, then the Committee will be compelled to reevaluate the use of taxpayer money to support the Media Campaign."

    One would think that this might have led to the discontinuation of the campaign. But in recently voting to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), elected to allocate roughly $1 billion to continue the ads for another five years. Much of that money will get passed on to the major networks, which in the past have agreed to give the ONDCP twice as many ads as it has paid for.

    How might this $1 billion have been more productively spent? According to the National Priorities Project's Web site, $1 billion could fund 139,044 more slots for the Head Start program or 18,886 additional teachers for public elementary schools. Does anyone really believe that these ads are more effective at preventing drug use than funding early intervention programs or improving schools?

    The ONDCP's latest ads try to capitalize on the concern of many teenagers for the environment. "Did you know that when they make cocaine," asks a white male in a darkly lit room, "that the byproducts are so poisonous that it's devastated thousands of acres of rainforest?" "No, I did . . . I didn't know that," says another white male in a suit. The ads seem to carry a double message: Don't do drugs because they are bad for the rainforests -- and, yes, even white males in suits care about the environment. If the ONDCP's past results are any indication, neither message seems likely to actually influence youth behavior.

    And just in case America's teenagers aren't impressed by the Bush administration's newfound concern for the environment, another new ad shows a teenage girl holding a pregnancy test while her parents despair. "Smoking marijuana impairs your judgement," the tag line reads. "It's more harmful than we all thought." The ad implies, of course, that smoking marijuana makes it more likely that young people will get one another pregnant. (More likely than drinking beer?) Considering that the one real medical drawback to marijuana is that it can leave men infertile if they smoke vast amounts, the ads are puzzling to say the least. Which issue is the ONDCP really worried about, marijuana or pregnancy? Perhaps it's the combination: marijuana smokers having children. Now there's a long-term demographic trend that would give Karl Rove nightmares.

    Michael Wallach is a TAP Online intern and a graduate student at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs.

    Note: Why a House committee's recent appropriation of money to fund anti-drug advertising was a laughable waste.

    Source: American Prospect, The (US)
    Author: Michael Wallach
    Published: June 17, 2003
    Copyright: 2003 The American Prospect, Inc.
    Contact: letters@prospect.org
    Website: http://www.americanprospect.com/

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