Drug Czar Ad Campaign Aims to Scare Boomer Parents About Pot, Leaving Young People at Risk

Press Release March 30, 2003
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Shayna Samuels at 646-523-6961

In more than 300 English and Spanish-language newspapers around the country today, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) took out “an open letter to parents” intended to scare them about marijuana. The ad offers no suggestions for honest and effective dialogue and ignores the safety of the millions of young people who choose to experiment despite all parental admonitions.

“This ad is really about parental support for the war on marijuana, not drug abuse prevention,” said Marsha Rosenbaum, director of the Safety-First Project at the Drug Policy Alliance. “No one wants young people using drugs. What parents need are strategies that work, and this ad offers only fear.”

According to the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, 53.9% of high school seniors experiment with illegal drugs at some point in their lifetime, despite millions of dollars spent on prevention programs. Critics charge that instead of continuing failed efforts to prevent marijuana use by trying to scare parents, the government’s resources could be better utilized in offering real information to teens and parents about how to keep young people safe.

Rosenbaum, author of Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens, Drugs and Drug Education, wrote that in order to keep young people safe, drug education programs should “offer credible information, differentiate between use and abuse, and stress the importance of moderation and context.”

“The drug czar’s obsession with marijuana looks even more absurd during wartime, especially to the millions of baby boomers who’ve smoked pot themselves,” said Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann. “This is a political ad aimed at them as voters, not as parents. It’s propaganda dressed up as prevention.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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