Drug Policy

I Was Gonna Kill an Orc, but I Got High

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Not only does smoking pot make you sit around all day, the Office of National Drug Control Policy warns, but if you choose to pass the time on your couch by playing video games (a not-unheard-of scenario), you will totally suck at it. The "Above the Influence" Web page devoted to the hazards of playing while stoned features two World of Warcraft–style avatars who ended up in the emergency room because one of their teammates was too baked to back them up. It's at least a little clever, and there's a germ of truth to it. But as usual in the government's anti-drug propaganda, there is no acknowledgment of a middle way between constantly stoned loser and always sober winner. For some people, a little pot might improve performance on certain kinds of games, or at least enhance enjoyment of them. And to the extent that smoking pot interferes with the fun, won't most people figure this out on their own?

Which raises another issue that, depending on how you look at it, counts as either a weakness or a strength of soft-sell anti-drug propaganda like this: To the extent that it's realistic, it just isn't all that alarming. The 2006 "Pete's Couch" ad (to which I linked in the previous paragraph) forthrightly concedes that the effects of smoking pot, contrary to the message of many other government-sponsored ads, are far from disastrous. The chief hazard it identifies is that if you spend all your time getting stoned and sitting around, you will miss out on other aspects of life. Like the "High Gamer" bit, the "Pete's Couch" spot omits some obvious alternatives, such as spending only some of your time getting stoned and sitting around, or combining getting stoned with other activities. More important, it makes marijuana prohibition, with all its attendant harms, look utterly arbitrary and disproportionate. If the strongest argument against smoking pot is that it might discourage you from going out to the movies or that it might impair your ability to conquer virtual battlefields, any viewer paying attention has to question the rationale for banning marijuana. So maybe these ads are performing a public service after all. 

[Thanks to Bob Ewing for the tip.]