That was a witch hunt

In the 1980s, the “Just Say No” advertising campaign was targeted at stopping recreational drug use. The slogan was first introduced by Nancy Reagan, who was the First Lady at the time. Nancy Reagan saw an option to bring awareness to children, combating peer pressure and gaining an understanding of why they turn to drugs. The “Just Say No” slogan was created by advertising executives during a visit to an Elementary School in Oakland, California, Nancy Reagan was asked by a young girl what to do if she was given drugs. The First Lady  answered, “Just say no.” And then all of sudden, there was a war on drugs, which included marijuana, which was lumped in with harmful, addictive substances such as LSD, cocaine and heroin. As Nancy Reagan traveled through the United States, she appeared on talk shows and announcements. She gained media attention and stirred up something similar to a witch hunt. The phrase “Just Say No” became part of popular American culture, and all of the medicinal benefits of marijuana were completely forgotten. In 1985, Nancy Reagan expanded her mission internationally. She got the Girl Scouts, Kiwanis Club and even the National Federation of Parents for a Drug-Free Youth involved in her causes. The First Lady’s campaign may have done some wonderful awareness raising but it’s also drawn criticism. Her approach reduced the solution to drug abuse to a simple catch phrase. Two studies propose that those who participated in the DARE programs were even more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink. The inflated fears that were caused by “Just Say No” resulted in mass incarceration and they stopped youth from accurate information about dealing with drug abuse. There was a particular stigma associated with anyone who was addicted to drugs, too, leading to people hiding their addictions instead of getting help. Medicinal marijuana is still struggling to overcome prejudices inspired by Nancy Reagan.


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