Civil Liberties

The Head of the Group That Gave Us 'This Is Your Brain on Drugs' Thinks Legalized Marijuana Is 'Happening in America'

He doesn't plan to push back against legal pot in Colorado and Washington.

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Here's one for everyone who grew up watching the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's over-the-top anti-drug ads: Pot legalization is "happening in America." That's not me talking; it's the head of the Partnership at Drugfree.org, as the organization is now known. And no, he isn't saying it to rally the troops against legalization. He's telling Advertising Age that he wants to focus on convincing people not to use marijuana, not convincing people to ban it:

And don't get them started on pancakes.

Ever since Colorado and Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana use, Partnership at Drugfree.org has been lobbied to run ads criticizing the decision. But that's the last thing the group wants to do. "A public-service ad that says: 'By the way, voters of Colorado, you don't know what you are doing.' Come on," said Steve Pasierb, the partnership's CEO. Pot legalization is "happening in America," he added.

The Partnership is taking a practical approach in Colorado and Washington with an educational PR effort. In July the group hosted a panel discussion in Denver to discuss what pot legalization will mean for kids. Parents have a "critical role to play to ensure that the readily available marijuana in these states do not result in higher levels of use by…their children and young teens," the group said in August.

The Partnership doesn't support legalization. But it seems to have concluded that in Colorado and Washington—maybe everywhere, depending on how you take the phrase "in America"—it's futile to try to reverse the tide. Anytime a crusader opts for persuasion over coercion, that's a reason to be happy.

As for the quality of that persuasion…well, I wouldn't say the Partnership has a great track record. But for nostalgia's sake, here's a compilation of the group's early PSAs: