FOR A DRUG-FREE AMERICA
LAUNCHES MEDIA BLITZ ON POT
in Americas Culture Wars
By Paul DeRienzo
High Times: July 1995 #239
compared the brains of drug addicts to fried eggs in their television
spots, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched a new advertising
campaign in January to persuade teenagers that smoking marijuana is not
War On Drugs has ill served us in the long run," concedes Dr. Lloyd
Johnston of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
Johnston was lead investigator for this years study that showed
31 percent of high school seniors have smoked marijuana, and that 3.6
percent of them use it daily. Speaking at a New York press conference
to announce the studys results, Johnston said, "We should have
been thinking about how to contain the problem over the long run."
The new anti-pot
advertisements are already running throughout the country. They range
from close-up shots of white youths who describe how their love of marijuana
led them to waste their lives to young girls coming home from a club late
at night smoking a joint as theyre stalked by a pair of hoods.
Dr. Johnston, the Partnerships new anti-pot crusade is a response
to cultural trends that send the message that marijuana is OK. He says
the pro-pot message is heard at "rock concerts and rock videos and
in recordings, and occasionally in movies like Dazed and Confused."
What he finds most disturbing are the "rap groups and grunge groups,
overtly encouraging drug use in their lyrics as well as in their lifestyle."
of the Partnership point out that for the first time in 24 years of drug-use
surveys by the University of Michigan, the rate of teenage tobacco use
was left out. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, tobacco
kills 400,000 people each year and its use is growing among young people-while
marijuana has never been linked to a single fatality. A recent article
in The Nation by Drug Policy Foundation researcher Cynthia Cotts points
out that the Partnership receives millions of dollars in contributions
from legal drug manufacturers and major tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds
and Philip Morris, as well as Anheuser-Busch brewers.
Drug Czar Lee
Brown acknowledges the damage done by tobacco but says illegal drugs are
his main concern. "Im not here to support alcohol abuse or
tobacco abuse," he says. "What were trying to do is address
a problem that exists right now. I believe that many people do not use
illegal drugs because they are illegal."
But HIGH TIMES
Executive Editor Peter Gorman, who also attended the Partnerships
news conference, points to the controversy surrounding a recent study
commissioned by the taxpayer funded Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)
program-a controversy that seems to Jay some of the blame for increased
teen pot use at the feet of the anti-pot advertisement establishment itself.
Gorman says DARE attempted to quash the report before it was made public,
despite the fact it was their own study.
"the preliminary study showed that children exposed to DARE programs
did drugs more often, at a younger age, with more variety and more frequency
than children not exposed. DARE refused to pay the Triangle Research Center,
which had been commissioned for the study. But Triangle released the study
argument is the notion that marijuana is a "gateway drug to
heroin and cocaine. But HIGH TIMES Editor-in-Chief Steve Hager asks, "What
about the link between tobacco and heroin? Virtually a hundred percent
of the people who use heroin smoke cigarettes, so using that same theory
you should say cigarettes cause heroin addiction-which is ridiculous."
the Partnership is "trying to cover up that they didnt release
the tobacco study for the first time in 24 years because Joe Camel and
all these tobacco companies are targeting their advertising at young kids."
says, "We certainly havent dropped tobacco from the study.
In fact, well be doing a separate press release on tobacco sometime
in the next month or two." As of press time, the Partnership has
yet to release its study of teenage tobacco trends.
adds that the revelations that President Bill Clinton, Vice President
Al Gore and House Speaker Newt Gingrich have all tried marijuana will
not undermine the Partnerships campaign. But he concedes, "We
now have a generation of children whose parents are marijuana-experienced,
and it raises the question-does one generation pass on its bad habits
to the next?" When pressed by reporters who asked if he had smoked
marijuana himself, Dr. Johnston replied, "Thats not a question
I answer. I dont think its appropriate."
to be seen if the media institutions that the Partnership claims have
donated nearly $2 billion in broadcast time and print space for its ads
will think the anti-pot campaign is appropriate. The Partnership admits
media donations are down significantly from its peak of $1 million a day
in 1991, to about $800,000 a day currently. The groups literature
readily admits its lost a major share of media exposure. And while
it may be shunning the rhetoric of a new War On Drugs, the Partnership
is apparently replacing it with a low intensity conflict-without hope
of a light at the end of the tunnel.