Just say no here

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the “Just Say No” advertising campaign was targeted at recreational drug use.  The slogan was first introduced and championed by Nancy Reagan, who was the First Lady at the time. Nancy Reagan saw an opportunity to bring awareness to children, combat peer pressure and gain an understanding of why they turn to drugs. The actual “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 offered drugs. The First Last answered, “Just say no.” All of sudden, there was a war on drugs, which included marijuana. Marijuana was lumped in with harmful, addictive substances such as LSD, cocaine and heroin.  As Nancy Reagan traveled throughout the United States, and appeared on talk shows and public service 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 the medicinal benefits of marijuana were completely forgotten. In 1985, Nancy Reagan expanded her mission internationally.  She got the Girl Scouts, Kiwanis Club and the National Federation of Parents for a Drug-Free Youth involved in her cause. The First Lady’s campaign may have done some good and raised awareness, but is has also drawn criticism. Her approach reduced the solution to drug abuse to a catch phrase. Two studies suggest that those who participated in the DARE programs were actually more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. The inflated fears caused by “Just Say No” resulted in mass incarceration and hindered youth from accurate information about dealing with drug abuse. There was a certain stigma associated with anyone who was addicted to drugs, leading to people hiding their problem instead of seeking help. Medicinal marijuana is still struggling to overcome the prejudices inspired by Nancy Reagan’s campaign.

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