When I attended SSDP’s National Training Conference and Lobby Day in March 2011, one presenter after another told me we had the power to make the change we want to see in the world. I have to say that I was a little skeptical.
The main focus of the conference was to train me and my fellow student activists how to be effective lobbyists and then to take what we learned to the offices of our representatives. In addition to educating members of Congress about marijuana legalization, we focused on asking Congress to defund the White House’s failed National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. You probably know one of the campaign’s laughably over-the-top ads that feature teens getting raped or shot after using marijuana. In one particularly ridiculous ad, a boy eats his hand after using drugs. SSDP has been advocating for the campaign to be eliminated since 2006, but we’ve never seen a chamber of Congress actually cut all funding for the program — until now. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I heard the news this week that a House committee eliminated all funding for the media campaign. The report submitted by the The Committee on Appropriations stated “Within this account, the Committee recommends no funding for media and outreach, rather than the $34,930,000 appropriated in fiscal year 2011 or the $45,000,000 included in the request for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. While the goals of this program are laudable, the Committee’s recommendation is guided by the results of evaluations of the media campaign which indicate that its effectiveness has been limited. The Committee directs resources where they are likely to do the most good, and thus recommends an increase above the request for the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program which the Committee believes is a better use of scarce funds.” The ONDCP losing its media funding is a testament to the work we put into lobbying members of Congress in March, and it should inspire us all to keep this common-sense dialogue going. Be the one to enlighten your representative of the failures of the drug war, because as proven by the nearly 400 SSDP chapter members who lobbied on Capitol Hill, you too can affect change.