By: Grace Kennedy
The Conservative government launched a new anti-marijuana television ad campaign that aims to warn parents about the harms of recreational marijuana use. The ad really tries to convey “science.” A woman speaks in a serious warning tone accompanied by imagery of smoke funnelling through what appears to be a clear tube, which I naturally assumed was part of a bong. When the picture zooms out it turns out to be an image of the brain composed of a clear tube-like material, i.e. a really cool looking bong. I really hope the marketing firm responsible for the ad sold this idea to a head shop after.
Bong jokes aside, the ad is entirely aimed at parents, urging them to “talk to their teens” about the side effects of marijuana and visit their website.
After doing so, all I can think is, thank God I don’t have a teenager with a marijuana “addiction” that I’m trying to convince to stop blazing. The website has very little useful information. However, it does have a Pinterest account with a picture of an alarm clock that reads, “Do you know what ‘four-twenty’ means?”
The television ad may as well say, “Hey voters, who are considering voting Conservative,” because of its narrow target audience of “traditional” families and complete incompetence in providing compelling information that could alter anyone’s opinion on marijuana use.
If this ad by the chance of a Hail Mary causes any teen to visit this website for help, there is no way they will spend more than 18 seconds on this brutal, uninformative page. The site is so poorly constructed that I think it’s actually condescending toward parents or teens who actually want help.
Of course, the reason for this could be because there is no specific treatment for marijuana addiction and methods such as behavioural cognitive therapy have had modest success at best.
The ad is part of a $5-million campaign that has been controversial because critics have viewed it as a partisan attack on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s stance in favour of the legalization of marijuana.
The Huffington Post reported this summer that the government spends $500 million per year on anti-drug campaigning and enforcement, and that 475,000 people have been criminally convicted in relation to the “drug” since Harper was elected. Furthermore, the main bodies representing physicians in Canada did not co-sponsor the ad, stating it was a “political football.”
Health Canada’s website currently states that “dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada,” but on the same page, gives instructions for how to obtain it with the support of a physician.
I write “drug” because I think that the stigma behind criminalizing drugs, especially a softer substance like marijuana, is the real harm to society. Criminalizing drugs requires policing and judicial costs that are a burden to taxpayers, but it also poses horrible consequences to people who are criminalized as “addicts” or depend on trafficking, and then face sentences that drastically jeopardize their lives, for a substance that is arguably pretty widely-accepted.
In the U.S., 46 percent of the population will have tried marijuana by the time they graduate from high school. I couldn’t find comparable Canadian statistics perhaps because the government doesn’t want to publicize that throwing money on these campaigns is like combating Facebook usage.
The war against drugs hasn’t paid off, hasn’t decreased drug use, and only makes life harder and dangerous for addicts and participants in its black market economy. The Conservative government’s obsession with drug prevention is archaic and severely out of touch with Canadian needs.