Isn’t talking about drugs and drug laws illegal?

Back in a 1999 Congressional hearing on drug policy in Washington, DC, here’s what some of our representatives, sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, had to say:

“Legalization is a surrender to despair,” said Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, Republican of upstate New York. “It cannot and ought not be any topic of serious discussion in our nation’s debate of the challenges of illicit drugs.”

Suggesting the depth of hostility toward the notion of legal drugs, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., asked whether anti-racketeering laws could be used to prosecute people conspiring to legalize drugs.

For decades, drug policy activists have faced this kind of extreme, government-led opposition to the core principles of our country.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many people today are unable to even discern the Grand-Canyon-sized gap between:

  1. Doing something illegal – and
  2. Advocating changes in the law

The second is not only legal, but part of our responsibility as citizens.

It’s sad to see how often this occurs, particularly in business services such as advertising policy.

Now, private businesses absolutely have the right to set and follow their own policies and choose what advertising they wish to accept. A savvy business sets such policies with care to insure maximum advertising revenue while not alienating large segments of the population.

But too many are unable to distinguish between drug abuse and drug policy.

A recent example occurred again with Facebook.

Chelsea Green Publishing decided to run some ads for the book they published: Marijuana Is Safer: So Why are we Driving People to Drink?. Facebook rejected the ads.

Their reason:

“I took a look at your account and noticed that the content advertised by this ad is prohibited. We reserve the right to determine what advertising we accept, and we may choose to not accept ads containing or relating to certain products or services. We do not allow ads for marijuana and any products related to it, and will not allow the creation of any further Facebook Ads for this product. We appreciate your cooperation with this policy.”

Note the incoherent conflation of ads for selling marijuana with an ad for a book about marijuana policy.

There’s a huge difference, and we can see it, but as a society we have become conditioned to accept that advocating legalization is, in fact, illegal.

I am absolutely certain that an ad for a book titled: “Marijuana: the demon drug that rots your brain” would have been deemed perfectly acceptable to the robots (ie, minimum wage humans) who were staffing the rejection post.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. The issue got the attention of someone higher up in Facebook – someone with a brain, and they stepped in to overrule the censors.

”We would like to sincerely apologize for the situation that occurred with your experience with our system yesterday. After further investigation into the ads that were submitted and disapproved, our policy team determined that the ads for your book were acceptable to run on the site…Again, we want to apologize for any frustration this situation has caused. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions regarding this situation and I’ll be happy to help out.”

This is very nice to see. It’s also exceedingly rare.

I had my own run-in recently with the inability to distinguish between illegal drugs and drug policy advocacy.

For awhile I tried using Ad-Brite for banner ads on this site. One of the advantages of Ad-Brite was the fact that, in addition to the standard ad rotation, people could specifically purchase ads to run on — and I wanted to allow that possibility.

After a number of months of running Ad-Brite, I was extremely disappointed with the results – essentially no revenue at all. So I decided to tinker with the placement of the ads and submitted a change of location on the page.

I got this notice:

We’ve completed the review of your zone, Right Banner Bottom ( Zone ID #1902676 ), that you’ve submitted. Unfortunately, we are unable to approve it for our marketplace at this time due to the following reasons:

– Illegal Drugs

To view our publisher zone policy, please visit use our searchable FAQs or click here: Publisher Acceptable Use Policy.

If you wish to petition our decision or you have changed your site’s content to meet our standards, please forward this email to with a request to have your zone re-reviewed.

Since I was already fed up with their service and found no reason to keep using it, I decided to write them and tell them what I really thought…

Are you kidding me?

Does your staff not know the difference between advocating for an illegal substance and advocating for changing the law?

Drug is a political activism site. It is a site about
stopping the bigoted narrow-mindedness of ignorant people who think talking about fixing the laws is somehow the same as advocating breaking them.

It is because of such short-sighted viewpoints that we have thousands of deaths in Mexico from the drug war, shootouts in our streets, and young children using drugs (because we have no regulation of them). It’s about the way the drug war corrupts law enforcement and our Fourth Amendment rights. It’s about comparisons with failed Prohibition 1 that resulted in Al Capone. It’s about finding ways to make our children safer.

We are facing a crisis in this country, but some idiots see the word “marijuana” and can only giggle and say “drugs are bad, mm-kay?”

This knee-jerk and simplistic reaction to my site is symptomatic of the problem.

The ironic thing is that the site hasn’t changed at all since Ad-Brite approved my ad months ago. I was merely re-configuring the ad in an attempt to see if I could actually get Ad-Brite to perform, since I’ve been extremely disappointed with the results so far.

The loss of Ad-Brite doesn’t affect Drug WarRant at all (unfortunately), but I am protesting the decision on principle because it doesn’t, in fact violate the Publisher Acceptable Use Policy in any way (there are no illegal activities, nor is there promotion of drugs), and because it bothers me when I find people who don’t know the difference between political activism and promoting drugs.

Thank you.

– Pete Guither
Executive Director, Prohibition Isn’t Free Foundation

Hey, at least it made me feel good, right?

Here was their response:

Hi Pete,

Thank you for contacting us.

Unfortunately we are not able to approve sites like yours in our exchange. Advertisers do not want their ads placed on controversial political discussion sites and as a result we are no longer allowing these types of sites in our exchange.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.


Eli S.
Customer Support

Of course, their acceptable-use policy still says absolutely nothing about “controversial political discussion sites.” And they still list such sites as “Glenn Beck is an Idiot,” “Morons with Signs,” “Balloon Juice,” and other obviously controversial political discussion sites as Ad-Brite websites.

No, it’s clear that the problem they had was with political discussion sites as relates to drug policy reform.

Again, it’s important to note that I support these companies’ legal right to refuse to serve me. I do find it extremely stupid, however. And a sad commentary on the range of acceptable political discussion in this country.

We’re doing pretty damn well considering our handicap.

We not only have to make our case, but we have to make a case for our right to attempt to make our case.

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35 Responses to Isn’t talking about drugs and drug laws illegal?

  1. Ben says:

    We’re fighting the good fight, and the tide is beginning to turn. The recent global commission got a lot of attention, and a great many people who had never thought twice about drug laws started investigating and realizing the horrendous injustices that are occurring. When marijuana is legalized and the world does not end, even more will see the light.

  2. darkcycle says:

    Morons abound. Some of them are (for some inexplicable reason) allowed to make decisions.

    • Windy says:


      • darkcycle says:

        BTW. I’m an academic. I spent from 1990-2004 working as a college teacher and a testing specialist. I’m also a published author of over a dozen papers and studies in academic journals, from psychology to medicine to horticulture. I have never been accused of plagarism, and will not stand to be. Produce the quote, and prove somehow I knew it existed.

      • darkcycle says:

        I was still supervising students in practicum until last year.

      • darkcycle says:

        Man that ‘rilly peed me off.

    • darkcycle says:

      I’m unaware of this being stolen. I’ve seen similar sentiments, but AFIK, that wording came from my own keyboard. My. We’re quite liberal with the accusations…

    • Windy says:

      darkcycle, I didn’t mean YOU stole it, I meant I was stealing it from you to use in my sig file. Lordy, I’m sorry, I should have clarified. The term is used on another forum where I’ve been hanging out since back in the 90s and I guess I just assumed everyone online knew what it meant. Goddess, I feel like an ass for taking so long to come back to see new comments, here and finding you took my comment the wrong way. Again, I apologize. Please forgive me.

  3. Steve says:

    Great post, and I completely understand your frustration– I saw the same thing this past weekend while watching the debate in the CT Senate over a decriminalization bill (which passed and will soon be signed by the governor!).

    Also, it should be noted that Bob Barr has reversed his position on drug policy and has been (not sure if he still is) a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project.

  4. Matthew Meyer says:

    Every year in Brazil the Marijuana March is prohibited in many of its largest cities. Grandstanding politicians get judges to issue last-minute emergency orders against it, always on the ground of “apology for crime” and “encouraging crime.” The judge in São Paulo who approved this year’s restraining order tried to distinguish “debate of ideas” from a public “demonstration.”

    They went ahead with the march and ended up getting tear gas and rubber bullets. Here’s a youtube video on it:

    It’s a catch-22 with drug policy that you often can’t appeal through the normal channels because special exceptions (in law, in humanity, in reason) are made for drugs. Like the states passing medical marijuana because the federal government won’t pull its head out. Or having to take to the streets because it’s the only way to really make people feel the reality of the movement.

  5. thelbert says:

    i think it’s the cell phones. frying their brains.

  6. allan says:

    I tell ya… I think perhaps I was pre-conditioned (along with many other… uh… more mature types here on Pete’s couch) to all of this by the co-incidents of being a 1950s and ’60s kid. We were steeped in the lore and pretty much had the run of the land – us kids back then I mean. An exciting evening on TV was Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom. We rode bikes everywhere and pretty much anywhere. More stores were owned by people than by mega-corporations…

    But as the ’60s drew on the facade wore thin… we began to collectively see that by god our shit does stink. Blacks were getting their day and the racist institutional barriers began to crumble. Vietnam shattered the myth of noble war. And millions of us discovered drugs… good drugs, bad drugs, we tried ’em all, even made up a few new ones.

    And we listened to voices long dismissed or ignored – environmentalists and indigenous people. We had a literary renassaince… science fiction went from formulaic aliens and space ships to a new genre called “speculative fiction.” Ideas and philosophies were tossed around… we read books, lots and lots of books. We had bad ass rock and roll and pot and LSD and ‘shrooms…

    And Tim Leary, blessed his pointed little head, said something that for me was very profound… drugs, especially the entheogens (all called psychedelics back then, everything was psychedelic) are deconditioners… they (in witchy terms) block the bad juju. They make us question what is and what isn’t. I thank the stars for my introduction to LSD. I don’t know if I would be anywhere near where I am now had I not occasionally followed Alice down the rabbit hole.

    Which of course brings me to Pete’s post… just thinking how Alice in Wonderland-like the world of drug policy is. Mix Lewis Carroll with some Monty Python and Firesign Theater, throw in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and finish it off with a dash of Catch-22 and MASH and I think you’d about have it close…

    When I lost my last full-time job, it wasn’t because I was a bad employee, just the opposite, I was rated excellent in all categories of employee performance by my store’s mgr. It was because microscopic particles were discovered in my urine… I mean seriously, a REAL drug test would be several T or F questions, some multiple choice ones (of course) and a lengthy essay portion.

    The modern world is nucking futs, simply stated. And in one of those quirky deals with nature, IWoCs somehow manage to continue producing offspring (IWoC = idiots without a clue).It has been rumored that Prohibitionist males are… ummm… smallish. We know there are several that have no balls at all…

    Anyway, that’s my Friday Night optical conclusion!

  7. DdC says:

    Seems if the ad is on a government operation it’s against free speech to deny it. If it’s a private corporation then they think they can censor it. Those corporations may be legally permitted to do so but those are the very corporations we should Boycott and send letters and emails too. Totally unfair and un-American to ban opposing views. No one has ever been sanctioned for anti drugwar speech as far as I know. Those who censor or even try to censor are red flags and should be listed as fascists and voted out. Confrontations can be fun one on one. Speak Out, It’s Legal and as stated, our duty.

    Psychology of Drug War Ads? 15 Oct 2002
    Would it be too much of a stretch to assume that the Feds use the same thinking that the tobacco industry uses to make sure that the WoD will last forever?

    Follow-up on USA Today ads by Ron Crickenberger
    U.S. Drug Czar Admits to Failed Ad Campaign
    After Wasting Nearly $1 Billion in Taxpayer Money

    Cannabis News Search

    Metro Ad Campaign Features Marijuana, Sex & Taxes
    Marijuana, sex, taxes and kids are the themes of an advertising campaign launched this week in Washington, D.C. by Change the Climate, a non-profit organization that uses outdoor advertising to educate people about marijuana issues.
    MBTA Asks Court for Freedom To Disapprove Ads
    There are lots of great places to debate American drug laws, or promote alternative churches, or discourage binge drinking. But the MBTA doesn’t think its subway cars, trains, or buses are the proper forum for political discussion and embarked yesterday on its latest legal fight over advertisements it deems offensive.
    Banned in Boston
    As a government agency, forbidden by the First Amendment to pick and choose among viewpoints, the MBTA has to pretend it has other reasons for turning down the ads. In a trial that begins today, a federal judge will decide whether any of these fig leaves is big enough to cover the transit authority’s naked attempt to squelch dissent.
    Change The Climate Launches Second Marijuana Ad
    As the Supreme Court considers the first medical marijuana case this spring, an advertising campaign that compares the relative harm of marijuana and tobacco and alcohol will be on 36 bus shelters around the nation’s capitol. The campaign is being launched by Change the Climate, a non-profit group of parents and business executives that uses provocative transit advertising to stimulate debate about marijuana policy.
    Pro-Pot Ads Rolling Into City
    Pro-pot ads banned in Boston and put up in Washington only after threats by First Amendment lawyers may be coming to a subway or bus stop near you — assuming Mayor Giuliani doesn’t snuff them out.
    Metro Accepts Marijuana Ad Banned in Boston
    The ad campaign, rejected by Boston’s subway system and the subject of a pending lawsuit there, was funded by Change the Climate Inc., a nonprofit organization that believes punishment for marijuana use is too harsh.
    Metro’s Pro-Pot Ads Get Attention On Hill
    Marijuana-legalization ads posted recently in Metro buses and subway stations have prompted an Oklahoma congressman to propose legislation making it illegal for transit agencies that accept federal dollars to give advertising space to groups that advocate breaking the law.

    • DdC says:

      “Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea.”
      Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf”, Vol. 1, Chapter 10

      “Wo sie Bücher verbrennt,
      sie wird letztlich auch brennen Menschen”

      “Where they burn books,
      they will ultimately also burn people”

      ~ Heinrich Heine, 1821
      From a play called “Almansor”.
      Referring to the burning of the Muslim Quran
      by the Christian Inquisition in Spain. However
      the quote is most associated with the May 10, 1933 burning of
      Jewish books by a Nazi crowd in Berlin’s “Babelplatz” (Babylon Plaza).

      “Zero Tolerance”

      SCAPEGOATING – Blaming social problems on a cultural, racial, or behaviorial group. PREJUDICE – Selling the public on the idea that all members of the targeted group are ‘bad’ people. LIES -‘Facts’, which cannot be verified, and pseudo scientific studies are used as propaganda against the targeted group. History is rewritten. NO PUBLIC DEBATE – “These people have no right to have their viewpoiunt aired.” and ” Anyone who disagrees or questions us must be one of them!” DEHUMANIZATION – Characterizing all members of a targeted group as subhuman and typically capable of monstrous deeds and/or crimes. PROTECT OUR CHILDREN -“They corrupt, seduce and or destroy our children.” CIVIL LIBERTIES SACRIFICED -“We must give up some of our freedoms, liberties, and rights in order to combat this menace to society.” LEGAL DESCRIMINATION – Laws criminalize members of targeted group and they may be denied jobs, the right to own property and/or be restricted as to where they may live or go. INFORMERS – Citizens are urged to ‘turn in’ friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members. SECRET POLICE – Non-uniformed police squads set up to wage war on targeted groups utilizing deception, infiltration, espionage and entrapment. CONFISCATION OF PROPERTY – Property and assets are seized from people who are members of targeted group. Property may be divided between the informer and the state. REMOVAL FROM SOCIETY – Prisons, rehabilitation camps, ‘hospitals’, executions and genocide…


      “There is a point at which the law becomes immoral and unethical. That point is reached when it becomes a cloak for the cowardice that dares not stand up against blatant violations of justice. A state that supresses all freedom of speech, and which by imposing the most terrible punishments, treats each and every attempt at criticism, however morally justified, and every suggestion for improvement as plotting to high treason, is a state that breaks an unwritten law.”
      – Kurt Huber,
      The head of “White Rose”,
      killed by the Nazis in 1943.

      Al Capone and Watergate were red herrings to divert the countries attention from the Fascist acts of eliminating competition. Booze/Ethanol or Ganja//Hemp.

  8. C.E. says:

    Let’s see. I know it’s here somewhere. Give me a sec.

    Oh yeah, here it is: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Doesn’t really address private companies, but when numbnuts in Congress start acting like efforts to legalize drugs are some sort of treason, someone intelligent needs to pull out the First Amendment and start slapping them across the face with it.

  9. Gart says:

    @ Peter,

    Completely off topic, but I think your readers may be interested in knowing that according to a recent study Colombia’s coca crop-spraying caused genetic damage to 10% Ecuador border citizens>

    Gart Valenc

  10. strayan says:

    Talking openly about gay marriage is the same as encouraging unprotected anal sex with children!!!

    • Duncan20903 says:

      I thought it was the same as talking about unprotected anal sex with various farm animals?

  11. Pete – recently did a piece showcasing Connecticut’s recent foray into decriminalization – it is within this piece: – then I saw this posting.

    Simply put…they are playing DUMB with our lives.

  12. Ed Dunkle says:

    I’d advertise here, but I’m sure my superiors would object. Businesses are hyper cautious about this stuff.

  13. denmark says:

    Great response Pete but you can’t communicate with robots, they’re dead in my eye.
    My latest response from a few people around this town has been, “Oh, I don’t pay attention to what’s happening in D.C.” — WTF —
    Those are people my back gets turned to when TSHTF.

  14. no one is stopping us from making our case. ads on your site do nothing to advance our cause — they are merely a technique for (possibly) generating revenue.

    it is the site content that matters — and no one is preventing that content (and its number of readers and participants) from growing.

    • allan says:

      We’re not shy about where we stand and if our stance makes others… uncomfortable… well we certainly know where they stand eh? I’d rather have a pair and get some flak than become a castrated desk/’puter jockey that subverts their humanity for profit.

      I like being a hornet under some folks bonnets…

  15. allan says:

    and along the lines of Pete’s post and our speaking out about the issue being verbotten:

    US Attorney for Oregon attempts to squelch First Amendment

    Dwight Holton, the US Attorney for Oregon, tried to silence a lawful protest by marijuana legalization activists on City Hall steps in Portland this
    morning, according to attorney Paul Loney.

    Holton recently authored a letter circulated to cannabis patients’ clubs threatening federal law enforcement action. The letter was endorsed by 33 of the 34 Oregon county district attorneys. Multnomah County D.A. Michael
    Shrunk declined to sign on, saying, “I don’t like to threaten things that we realistically are not geared up to do,” and “combating this cannot be termed a critical priority when balanced against others.” From the Holton letter:

    “Oregon and Federal law make it illegal to sell marijuana – period, end of story,” said Holton. “The breathtaking surge in manufacture and distribution of marijuana in Oregon is putting marijuana in the hands of more and more
    healthy kids — and dispensaries are fueling this crisis. We are confident that responsible landlords and property owners will remove the operators of illegal dispensaries and ‘cannabis clubs’.”

    In response to the crackdown, Madeline Martinez, proprietor of one of the threatened clubs, the World Famous Cannabis Cafe, called a press conference Friday afternoon at the Portland City Hall steps. The permit had been turned in on Monday, according to Oregon NORML Legal Counsel Paul Loney.

    Speaking to NORML SHOW LIVE, Loney explained, “We got word that [US Attorney] Holton contacted [Portland City Councilman] Nick Fish and told him, ‘you shouldn’t let those guys [the marijuana advocates] have their press conference at City Hall.'” According to Loney, “Fish told him that we turned in our permit on Monday and what they’re doing is perfectly legal.”

    Loney continued, “I think this is more of a story than the letter – a US Attorney, sworn to uphold the Constitution, trying to squash the First Amendment rights of Oregonians! We are going to be investigating this and bringing it up with his boss, [Attorney General] Eric Holder.”

    Who are these people? As NORML’s Russ Belville points out:

    If the Oregon county D.A.s outside of Multnomah are lacking for better things to do than harass sick and disabled adults trying to be legal consumers in a state with no legal retailers, perhaps they could work on the 72.4% of sex crimes and 80.4% of property crimes that didn’t lead to an arrest in 2009 in Oregon.

    Amen Russ… amen…

  16. Pete says:

    I’d like to thank all the readers who have made generous contributions to help pay for my hosting costs (since advertising revenue does not) which has made it possible to continue to provide the site content here.

    I really do appreciate it.

    It would be nice if I could just get ad revenue like any other topic so I didn’t have to depend on such generosity.

    • allan says:

      It seems to me that there are many intelligent companies that would welcome advertising space on a site as busy as this.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      You could put up a link for one of the online paraphernalia shops Pete, IIRC they pay 10% for pipes and such.

      I’m guessing you might not like the synthetic cannabis ads especially since you’d have no control over the vendors complying with the newly coined Federal & State prohibition laws. The above was just the first link for my Google search for smoke shop affiliate programs.

  17. Servetus says:

    “For decades, drug policy activists have faced this kind of extreme, government-led opposition to the core principles of our country.”

    No surprise. Non-users, those ignorant of drugs, see drug use as a stigma, something capable of contaminating anyone and anything that comes near it.

    Definitely not a good situation, since stigmatic feelings operate through a primal, deep seated reaction in the brain that forms the basis for many superstitions. (see: The Science of Superstition, Bruce M. Hood, 2010). It’s like being asked to wear a coat owned by a serial killer like Ted Bundy, or mass killer bin Laden’s turban. Most people refuse. Or if given the chance to handle Einstein’s pen, they’re awestruck and people want to touch it.

    Prohibitionist drug propaganda seizes on predictable public panic reactions by portraying drug users as morally inverted, tainted, and thus magically capable of contaminating others. The prohibitionists also project their own personality defects onto their victims.

    These examples add urgency to the cause of ridding society of its drug superstitions, of jumpstarting a process that unties the clusterf*#k nesting inside the scrambled brains of prohibitionists who enjoy and profit from spreading their awful drug meme to an unwitting public.

    Today’s drug policy activists might console themselves if they remember that those who once criticized prosecutorial processes and defended people accused of heresy or witchcraft in the Middle Ages were automatically charged with heresy or witchcraft. Then again, maybe that’s not so comforting.

  18. Brawndo (It's Got Electrolytes!) says:

    It is almost like the former Soviet Union here in the motherland, where the police would just watch someone all day knowing sooner or later they would break a law. *Gasp* I just committed a thoughtcrime! Please ready the memory hole.

  19. denmark says:

    Brilliant, they’re going after Oregon now. Washington state was raped a short while ago, who’s next Keril-boy, one state at a time will get your sick objectives accomplished? Don’t think so, have you paid attention to how pissed off the American public is Kerli? Didn’t think so, ‘pissed off American’s’ must not be in your vocabulary.

    Russ at the stash is a wonderful spokesman. Don’t have the time to listen to him much anymore though. I’m really waiting for something to give, in our favor of course.

  20. Windy says:

    It may be time to get angry and be freakin’ loud about it. Angry like we were about the dirty little war in Viet Nam. Angry like we were about the lack of civil rights for minorities (the racists in government have since been using the “war on drugs”, to harass, disenfranchise, and incarcerate the minorities). Maybe it is actually well past time to show our anger.

  21. Dante says:

    RE: Advertisers rejecting cannabis-related content.

    It’s all about the money. If those advertisers suddenly realized that they would reap HUGE profits by indluding currently-banned content, they would change.

  22. ConservativeChristian says:

    Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.
    Next step: How about $100 for a permit to grow a dozen plants? We can use the money to fix our roads, and it will put the drug gangs out of business for good!

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