US Anti-Marijuana Campaign Highlights Pressing Problems

A boy and a girl are sitting together on a couch, smoking several joints in
what seems like a fairly short time span. As the girl eventually starts to
pass out, the boy begins to unbutton her blouse while she meekly, almost
inaudibly, pleads with him to stop...

I was sitting on my couch, enjoying my breakfast while watching the 4:00 pm
episode of The Simpsons on ABC. As I turned away from the TV, the image of
a bong suddenly appeared onscreen. Curious, I fixed my gaze upon the idiot
box once again, only to discover real idiots. Two teenagers are sitting in
the den, getting blazed. After a while, one of the geniuses finds a handgun
in a desk drawer, certain it's not loaded. Surprise! It is. Whoops, the
other kid's dead. Shucks.

This commercial is one of many in a new American campaign, shown on
Canadian stations, which just don't make sense. It's time consumers all
over North America step back from their television sets and ponder the
problems associated with this situation.

First off, many of these commercials are followed-up by a Budweiser ad.
Hopefully, the irony's not lost on anyone. As anyone who's ever woken up
muttering, "What happened last night?" can attest, alcohol's
reality-distorting properties far exceed those of its narcotic partner in
crime.

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth recently declared that minors in
the US are 60 times more likely to see alcohol ads than a message
discouraging underage drinking or drunk driving. Maybe the government
should shift its focus a little. Having visited the United States twice
last month, and having both times successfully purchased beer without being
asked for ID, I would say alcohol is readily available for minors.

The only explanation for this advertisement is the unprecedented transfer
of government funding over to "defence". Maybe the honest producers of the
commercials didn't have enough jack left over to create a campaign that
makes sense.

Why the hell would anyone leave a loaded handgun in the top drawer of his
study? This commercial only underscores the practically unacknowledged
social problem of gun control in the US. The American conclusion: the pot
definitely caused the kid to shoot his friend, not the presence of a deadly
weapon.

The first time I saw one of these ads, I thought I was watching a Saturday
Night Live sketch. A favourite is "Dan's Cartel": Dan likes to smoke weed.
Dan's dealer sells him weed. Dan's dealer's dealer's dealer is involved
with a foreign drug cartel that is responsible for the murder of a family
of four. The conclusion: there's no question Dan is fully responsible for
the death of those poor folks. This is a very sad story. Unfortunately, it
serves only to reinforce the desperate call for legalization; as such, the
government could regulate the industry, thus cutting out the need for
black-market dealing.

As rumours swirl regarding the very real possibility of the Canadian
decriminalization of 'wacky tabaccy', one can't help but shed a tear for
those poor Americans who don't know any better than to trust this foolish
poppycock. Imagine a couple of good ole boys down south, polishin' their
guns an' drinkin' their 40s, chasing down a commune of hippies because they
cause America's problems.

McGill Sociology Professor Rod Nelson explains that industry responsibility
messages of this sort, historically, have experienced very low success rates.

"[In most cases], the curve continues on with no blip at all," says Nelson.

He elaborates that public service advertisers lack credibility, partly
because they tend to frame social issues as personal problems, ignoring the
larger structures that may be causing this effect. In other words, we are
shown kids getting high, but left with the question: what is the role of
the family? What about peer groups, and schools? These burning questions do
not seem to be addressed at all.

So what do fellow McGill students think about this controversial
advertisement campaign?

"Over-exaggerated," says Tara Wood, a U1 Anatomy and Cell Biology student.
"They should direct their attention to more lethal drugs, like ecstacy...
[since] nobody knows how pure it is."

"[They] play upon the fears of parents who, in all likelihood, have never
smoked up," says Matt Thompson, a U1 Psychology student, who thinks the
commercials are misleading. "The government's resources would be better
spent on improving destructive social problems, like use of date rape drugs
and violence against women."

Aside from quadruple-murders, accidental gun-firings, car crashes, unwanted
teenage pregnancies and high school bathroom arrests, marijuana is known to
cause a blissful, euphoric feeling and insatiable hunger. It's hard to say
whether this campaign has experienced any success as of yet, but if history
is any indicator, the US anti-drug task force would best serve to chill
out, grab some munchies and head home.


Pubdate: Tue, 18 Feb 2003
Source: McGill Tribune (CN QU Edu)
Contact: tribune@ssmu.mcgill.ca
Copyright: 2002 The McGill Tribune
Website: http://tribune.mcgill.ca/