Super Bowl Pot Bust

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It won't get as much publicity as the idiotic ads linking illegal drug use to terrorism, but one of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Super Bowl ads was just as stupid.

I'm referring to the one in which a couple is waiting for the results of a pregancy test. You assume it's for them and then learn it's for their young daughter, waiting shamefully in the next room. The voiceover intones that "smoking marijuana impairs your judgment."

This vignette, viewable here, elicited hoots of derision from the people I was watching the game with. Hoots and confessions, from both men and women, that pot short-circuited many more sexual episodes than it fueled. Booze, yes, especially as high school kids. But pot leading to that sort of lapse of judgment? Not particularly. But beer and wine coolers don't yet fall under the drug czar's province.

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  1. This commercial wasn’t nearly as bad as the one with the guy on the train with the people he “killed” a la an American Werewolf in London flashback. The simple argument they make breaks down totally once there is no longer prohibition, but they ignore that completely.

    That said, is anyone seriously opposed to parents warning their kids not to use drugs even if they were completely legal? I know that I never have and will advise my children not to in the future.

    The situation in the commercial surely isn’t out of the realm of possibility (especially if the male in question was NOT using marijuana). Impaired judgement, from whatever source, is not good, especially for those whose judgement is not yet fully developed.

  2. Clearly, goodspkr never inhaled 🙂

    The ad (and the whole current campaign) is objectively, and demonstrably dishonest and at odds with reality. They’re also patently silly, but that’s not really objectively demonstrable.

    For a short time, the anti-drug ads were actually getting on an okay track. I remember one in particular that showed a kid at a party panicking about what he was going to say when his friends passed a joint to him. He wants to decline, but fears he’ll look like a dork. At the moment of truth, he says “no thanks”, his friend says “that’s cool”, and everything goes on as normal, much to the kid’s relief.

    A common real life situation, with a realistic and sensible message. Peer pressure is indeed most often this kind of “implied” pressure, rather than people overtly badgering you into trying something you don’t wish to.

    Now we’re back to the reefer madness approach to curbing drug use. And since nearly everyone in high school at least knows someone who smokes pot, kids will have an easy empirical test to assess the reliability of the ads. When they come up so seriously lacking in reality, kids will then be inclined to dismiss anything adults tell them about the subject.

    What else to expect though from an administration that thinks abstinence til marriage is a feasible and desirable goal for everyone (people don’t get married at 19 any more fellas. Waiting ’til you’re 27 is a bit excessive, doncha think?), and is still uncomfortable with the notions of contraception and evolution.

    What century is this again?

  3. I used to be all in favor of legalization of everything and I also thought that all anti-drug ads were a waste of time. Kids would simply do drugs if they wanted to, no matter what anyone said.

    Three dead friends within one year — all cocaine related — changed my mind. The casualties actually ran higher than three dead — there were a number of wounded. There were two bereaved wives who hit the bottle to cope with the loss and their newfound poverty, three young kids left without a daddy, a lot of heartbroken friends, and a couple sets of parents who were suicidal wondering if they could have raised junior better. Sure, you can say it’s Darwin’s law, the weak and stupid being culled from the gene pool. But me and my surviving friends, if not actual road kill, are left wounded and limping off the road by our indulgent friends’ big crashes.

    Admittedly many, if not most anti-drug ads are pretty stupid. But is it also possible that there is more to Hayek and von Mises than pot, porn & profits? Or are drug laws totally incompatible with libertarian ideals?

  4. Omnibus, I sympathize with your position, having also known those who have been damaged by drug use.

    The problem is that irresponsible use of anything can lead to disastrous consequences, and the act of making things illegal has absolutely no effect on that kind of behaviour. It’s much more generally true that the illegality of something is more likely to engender abuse, as there is little or no context for a non abusive scenario.

    As libertarians, the only laws we need regarding consensual personal conduct are laws that enforce the personal responsibility that comes with the right of personal freedom.

  5. Sorry to hear about your friends Omnibus.

    The relevant point though is that all of that happened right smack in the middle of the war on drugs. And we’ve been increasingly clamping down in the direction of prohibition with no discernable positive net effects, and lots of discernable negative net effects.

    Any responsible proponent of the legalization/decriminalization/regulation of drugs should want to talk about and address your concerns. We just feel that the current approach has been definitively shown to be one which is not at all helpful in this regard.

  6. As P.J. O’Rourke once put it, we’re a nation desparately wanting to be rid of our young people. I can see both sides of this issue, in that most of the time the ‘bad judgement’ resulting from pot smoking is eating too much and laughing at things that aren’t funny in public. However you can reasonably assert that whenever people of potentially questionable judgement to begin with are imparing it, some of these seemingly hyperbolic scenarios can and do come true.

    That said, I don’t think that drug use is always a risk increaser; even druggies and drunkards learn from their experience as they age. The true problem here is bad judgement in general, especially as exhibited by teenagers. I knew as a teenager not to have sex without a condom, regardless of being drunk or stoned at the time. Some folks, however, aren’t so precient. A better approach would be to instill in the youth a reasonable fear of the things that it is reasonable to fear, and not some notion that drugs (or alcohol) will make you do the things you fear.

  7. What exactly is wrong with abstinance as a contraceptive and as a prophylactic measure against sexually transmitted diseases? It’s pretty much the only thing that is 100% effective, and it’s certainly possible. The century in which we live has little to do with it.

    The same goes for drug use. People like to mock the ’80s message of ‘just say no’ but, again, impaired judgement cannot possibly improve one’s situation at any given point in time, so the ‘just say no’ message had a point.

    Admittedly, some people are going to use drugs and have sex before they are married. Not everyone will. It is not the place of the government to tell people whether or not they can do either, but neither is it the government’s place to facilitate such behavior. If one can look objectively at today’s society and not see some problems brought about by promiscuity and drug use, then you’ve been wearing the same glasses, uncleaned since ’68 in San Francisco.

  8. The great thing about abstinence is it is 100% effective at preventing STD’s and unwanted pregnancy. The downside to abstinence is that you have to abstain. Unlike drug use, sexual desire is an instinct along the lines of eating and sleeping (less strong but always there nonetheless). I think it’s fine if people want to choose it as an option, but I don’t necessarily think it will work in general.

    Of course, one could advocate looking at porn and masturbating, which pretty much alleviates the downside of abstinence, but somehow I doubt abstinence advocates (who mostly approach it from a religous standpoint that views sexuality in general with suspicion) will take that up in spite of the fact that it has worked quite well for many. (Of course it may just be that those it has worked for were probably deprived of the opportunity for sex with a partner anyway).

    I beg to differ that it is never beneficial to impair one’s judgement; or rather, the impairment is necessarily releated to the state of altered consciousness produced by intoxication.
    While the impairment is probably not ever beneficial in and of itself, the general feeling of wellness about things that comes with moderate intoxication can be quite relaxing and rejuvinating. There’s a reason they call it ‘recreational drug use’. I’m not advocating total stupor, just the pleasure one gets from a couple of glasses of wine, for example.

    Drugs are not the only things that impair judgement; strong emotions about people we care about often impairs our judgement in a far more permanent way and no one argues that this is a bad thing in general, or to the extent we view it as bad we don’t argue that people should not have any emotional attachments because they can no longer be objective.

    And as a less abstract example, who hasn’t been just a little bit freaked out when hearing a strange noise in the house after watching a scary movie, only to find out it was just the cat?

  9. Hey, if you want to remain celibate until you’re in your late 20s early 30s John Jenkins, be my guest.

    For the rest of us, we’d prefer to not be goaded into an arbitrarily early marriage merely because of the sex carrot.

    It may be a reasonably appropriate message to try and tell high school kids they aren’t ready for sex. Telling that to a 25 year old is patently silly.

    Marriage is a completely arbitrary prerequisite.

    And Jim is exactly correct about the unwillingness of abstinance enthusiasts to deal with the realistic alternatives to having sex.

    No sex, masturbation, porn, or lewd thoughts until you’re married? What planet are these people from?

  10. This has to be the most hilariously misguided ONDCP ad yet — it’s amazing that the series has, collectively, so little to do with pot itself. “Parents, keep your gun locked up,”
    “Don’t drive under the influence of a narcotic”
    “Use birth control or don’t have sex.”
    These are all decent messages to send, but not under the guise of drug control.

  11. Fittingly, the South Park episode run last night on Comedy Central featured a company whose message was “It’s OK to lie to your kids to keep them away from drugs.”

  12. Got to disagree with you. I find that people make the most fun of things that strike home. I would bet that the same people who made fun of the marijuana clouds your judgment probably had at least on episode where it fueled their desire and had them do something stupid.

  13. goodspkr, I think the point is marijuana-fueled idiocy usually revolves around eating godawful stoner foods like Funyuns or boring those around you with sophmoric philosophy about the universe, while alcohol is more the “Let’s fuck!” drug.

  14. Clearly the gist of the ad was lost on the audience. That the parents failed to consider the arguably more pragmatic alternative of assisting the young sweetie in obtaining an abortion clearly illustrates impaired judgment. The adult viewer is left with a vague sense of relief that all poor judgments made throughout their lives can be blamed on that single drag twenty years ago.

  15. The message of the ad was clearly this: “Hey fourteen year old boys! Want to get laid? Then get her high!”

  16. Most birth control devices are given two effectiveness ratings. The first is how effective it is when used as designed every time you have sex. The second is the likelihood of pregnancy when used in the real world — where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. The Pill is at 99% if used correctly, but most of us forget to take it now and again, or take another medication which negates its effect, etc., so it’s real world effectiveness drops to something like 85%. That’s quite good enough for me, and I know the things I can do to up it back to 99%.

    I would like to see these statistics used in reference to abstinence. 100% when used correctly. But what is the real world effectiveness. If you have 100 teenagers who choose abstinence as their choice of birth control, what are the results in one year? How many got pregnant, how many caught an STD? I’ve never seen anyone do a study like that. I wish they would. I suspect that abstinence, as actually practiced, doesn’t work nearly so well. Certainly, not at 100%.

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