Drug Policy



Whatever you might think of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, there's no question that it produces memorable ads. It's just that the ads may not be remembered as intended.

Take the classic public service announcement from the 1980s in which an egg was cracked into a sizzling frying pan while the announcer said, "This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?" The spot was so vague, sweeping, and over the top that any thoughtful viewer had plenty of questions, starting with, "Huh?" The fried egg entered the culture not as a stark warning but as an object of ridicule. Soon you could buy T-shirts and posters showing a picture of someone's breakfast with captions like, "This is your brain on drugs with orange juice, bacon, and toast."

A similar fate may await the ads blaming drug users for abetting terrorists that were unveiled during this year's Super Bowl. It did not take long for the mocking to begin. The creators of the film Emperor of Hemp go after the Drug Enforcement Administration in a PSA parody, while the Libertarian Party targets drug czar John Walters in a print ad.

Try as they might to explain and justify the calumny against pot smokers and coke sniffers, the drug warriors have clearly gone over the top again. The rhetorical excess and logical weakness are so egregious that even supporters of the war on drugs have taken note. At least one anticipated just the sort of satirical responses that are beginning to appear.