Most people have become so habituated to seeing commercials that media advertisements are viewed uncritically regardless of content. However, a recent series of anti-marijuana propaganda ads begs analysis.
The portrayal of drug use in the commercials paid for by the White House Office of National Drug Policy show the “reality” behind drug use. But these commercials are intentionally misrepresentative. The conservative right, in an attempt to continually make pot controversial, has no other recourse but to lie to ensure that drug prejudices will remain in the mainstream’s convictions. One commercial stars two teenage boys smoking marijuana when one boy pulls a gun from a drawer. The other asks if it is loaded. A gunshot is heard. Fade to black.
“Marijuana can distort your sense of reality,” flashes across the screen.
The ridiculousness of this ad is the irrational leap it asks the viewer to make. Does smoking pot really make fully loaded handguns materialize out of thin air? Of course not. If it did, the Black Market would be obsolete and Cheech and Chong would be the biggest terrorist threat in the world. The real issue at hand in this commercial is gun control, not marijuana abuse.
The terrible stigma marijuana has maintained can be traced back to racial issues that originally sparked its prohibition. Between the years 1915 and 1937, 27 states outlawed marijuana. According to Charles Whitebread, Professor of Law for the University of Southern California Law School, the conception of marijuana early in the 20th century predesignated it as a Mexican indulgence.
Whitebread goes on to say that not only was marijuana falsely branded as making Mexicans “crazy,” but also made hostility toward minority groups an acceptable reaction; rather than judging an entire ethnicity as inherently bad, discriminating against them because of a substance they consume, judging the action rather than the person, becomes justified.
In other words, marijuana was not an acceptable recreational pastime because white people didn’t use it.
European monks, on the other hand, invented beer, so getting drunk is OK.
Children, by their very nature, want to rebel against everything their parents have told them. And if we, as a society, continue to portray marijuana as a delinquent activity, should we really be surprised if people want to flirt with disaster?
If teachers and parents were upfront, youths would be less inclined to rebel. Rather than hyping drugs up as the bogeyman, rather than scaring children to deter experimentation, an objective, unskewed education of drug awareness is desirable.
If students were told, “Marijuana makes you light headed, laugh hysterically and eat lots of junk food, but it’s also highly carcinogenic, psychologically addictive and can potentially make you sterile,” instead of, “Marijuana is the first step to a life of ruination, sleeping in gutters and doing the unmentionable with pederasts in subway bathrooms, so crack open a beer because it’s safer,” they might be better equipped to ethically weigh their options. This type of education must be used for legal and illegal drugs alike.
That the majority of Americans still believe legalizing marijuana will lead society into decadence reflects a larger problem; if our society were as advanced and sophisticated as we’ve been led to believe, why do we still fear allowing people to make decisions for themselves? Are the methods used in child rearing and education so crude and antiquated that we, as Americans, are unable to instill good decision-making skills? Are scare tactics the only deterrent we can find?
Until we are willing to break away from traditional stigma, marijuana’s legalization will be dangerous and premature. Only when we reach a point where we trust future generations to set their own limits, will the legalization of marijuana become a viable option for America.