By Published on .

The attraction of doing PSAs rarely lies in being able to make a pile of cash. When a worthy cause requires advertising, agency people typically respond with generosity, by donating their time and best efforts as a matter of civic duty. Their reward lies in knowing they performed a kind act for the public good.

But where, exactly, is the public good when you decide to propagandize poppycock that has disastrous consequences -- including potential imprisonment -- for the country's 13 million marijuana users? I'm referring to the many anti-marijuana PSAs commissioned by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Did the Madison Avenue freethinkers who made those ads perhaps engage in a bit of cynical scaremongering? Did they believe their own copy? Some have been known to use certain, let's say, vitamin supplements themselves, come party time, so you have to wonder. They may have been too enamored with the idea of doing an eyecatching ad to worry about fanning the flames of hysteria over a relatively harmless drug.

Yes, relatively harmless. But don't take my word for it. Pot's alleged risks have been thoroughly debunked in a recent report commissioned by, of all people, Clinton's chief drug warrior, Gen. Barney McCaffrey. No doubt McCaffrey had hoped that the 18-month study, conducted by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, would bolster his hawkish views, to wit: that marijuana has no unique medical benefits; that it's addictive; and that it's a 'gateway drug' leading to the abuse of harder substances, like crack or heroin. Interestingly, the report finds nothing of the sort.

What it does conclude is that pot, as a medical substance, is "moderately well-suited for certain conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting." The study further notes that very few users seem to have developed a dependence on marijuana; in fact, "They appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine)." And this business about pot being a gateway drug? "There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a steppingstone on the basis of its particular drug effect."

Agencies have played a huge part in demonizing pot. Now that the facts are in (see for an executive summary), it'll be interesting to see if the industry can wean itself off of all those cool Partnership assignments, at least when it comes to anti-marijuana ads. How about it? Next time the Partnership wants another smear campaign against millions of perfectly productive, otherwise law-abiding pot users, Just

Most Popular