Progress is often made in tiny steps. This week, America took another step in the long journey toward ending the War on Drugs with the news that D.A.R.E. - one of the country's largest anti-drug advocacy groups - has removed marijuana from its list of "gateway drugs", substances that supposedly lead users to trying harder drugs like heroin. With little fanfare, the group removed marijuana from its list of gateways, which now only includes alcohol and tobacco.
D.A.R.E. - which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education - is one of many advocacy groups that launched in the 80s as the Reagan administration intensified the War on Drugs by telling Americans - especially kids - to "just say no" to marijuana and other substances. Now that the War on Drugs is under heavy scrutiny at home and abroad, it makes sense for these groups to rethink their strategies.
But for clarification, D.A.R.E. is not saying that marijuana doesn't pose harm to kids. And neither are we. But the idea that it's a gateway to heroin and other hard drugs is a fallacy that arguably does more harm than good. And to commemorate D.A.R.E.'s step toward reasonable drug policy, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the most bizarre anti-drug PSAs that emerged from the War on Drugs.
(Full disclosure: we agree with a lot of these ads in principle, especially when it comes to keeping marijuana away from minors. But as you'll see, the ads often defeated their own purpose.)
1. This is your brain...
One of the most famous anti-drug PSAs is also one of the most puzzling. According to the commercial, your brain on drugs is breakfast. Is this an ad against using drugs, or an endorsement of waking-and-baking?
2. Mr. T.'s ultimatum
Is violence the answer to drugs? Mr. T. thinks so in this PSA, in which he bullies kids into staying clean: "Don't...or else!" he warns after smashing a glass and throttling the camera.
3. Superheroes can but won't protect you from dealers
Superheroes often help people in trouble...except when drugs are involved. In these two PSAs, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger stand on the sidelines as kids are subjected to peer pressure.
4. Knight Rider admits the War on Drugs isn't based on evidence
You'd think that the best way to inform the public about the dangers of drugs would be to use scientific research, right? Not according to the David Hasselhoff as Knight Rider in this piece: leave the stats aside and focus on the emotional rhetoric.
5. Marijuana Malpractice
This PSA raises a good point. Surgeons shouldn't smoke marijuana in the ER. Nor should they drink, text, play video games or do a whole bunch of other legal things during an operation.
6. Freddy Krueger endorses marijuana
Okay, this one isn't a serious PSA. The parody starring Johnny Depp (credited as Oprah Noodlemantra) was part of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). But to the film's credit, Freddy might've been more effective than anything else in keeping kids in the 80s away from marijuana.
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