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June 2004
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My life. My decision

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune comes a story that makes me do something truly rare …
…praise the government for something they’re doing in the drug war.
Now, before you get all concerned for my mental health, I’d better point out that the good thing the government is doing came about by accident.
Brigham Young University professor Douglas McKinlay had his advertising class work on developing new ads. He contacted Ogilvy & Mather, who gave them the anti-drug creative brief “‘just for fun’ and to nurture new talent.”
The homework assignment, which called for a positive anti-drug message, impressed Ogilvy & Mather (and the Drug Czar’s office) so much that they’re going to go with the ads in a special “Scan Me” campaign to start soon.
Here’s an example.

A picture named mylifemydecision.jpg

BYU students wrote, designed and produced a series of ads, such as this one. The text reads, “You scan me: You think I’m just another pot-smoking teenager. Well, you are wrong. I’m an artist, a therapist, and the last time I took a hit was in kickboxing. Drugs aren’t me. My life. My decision.” (Courtesy of Brigham Young University)

Note that this ad is positive, affirming, and gives the power to the young person. No preaching, no lies.
Compare this to the usual advertising approach: “smoking pot supports terrorism,” “smoke pot and you’ll kill your little brother,” “this is your brain on drugs,” etc., in addition to the government’s approach in other ways — everything from imprisonment, denying financial aid, denying extracurricular activities or olympic sports, searching everybody, shooting down airplanes, demanding urine, … turning the country into a police state.
I have no objection to the government encouraging people not to use drugs. A positive ad is what I want to see. In fact, positive messages are the best way to reduce drug use. Of course, the federal government is not likely to do it well — this case in point shows that they can only do it by accident. It says something about the blindness of federal drug policy, that it took a bunch of college students in class to finally come up with a good ad.
You want some good drug policy? Legalize marijuana and take one tiny portion of what we spend on prohibition to run ads like these.
My life. My decision.

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