Why I support Release’s “Nice People Take Drugs” Campaign

Release, the human rights charity that gives advice and campaigns on drug policy are running a campaign simply
called “Nice People Take Drugs”. In June 2009, they paid for the slogan to be plastered on the side of London
buses, which were pulled a few days later by advertising regulators even though no complaints about the slogan
or the adverts were received by members of the public.

The slogan itself was designed to challenge the moralistic way many people view drugs and drug-users, and to
try and foster an atmosphere where an open dabate on drug policy can held. In a world where drug-users are demonised
by the press, ‘Nice People Take Drugs’ is a powerful thought-provoker, encouraging the public to view drug users as
human beings, instead of rabid criminals out to recruit your children.

The advertising regulator responsible for pulling the ad told Release that they would have to amend the slogan to
“Nice people ALSO take drugs” or “Nice people take drugs TOO”. I suppose the argument is that “Nice people take drugs”
could somehow be conflated as “In order to be ‘nice’, you must take drugs”. I think the general public need to be
credited with more intelligence than that, especially in a world where every other message is saying “Drug takers are
innately evil”.

Whilst the conventional media use easy soundbites about drug harms to justify their reactionary veiwpoints, making
an argument for drug law reform and harm minimisation requires a more nuanced approach. Explaining why control and regulation
of drugs is the best way of dealing with the harms they cause to society and the individual today is complex and often requires
several footnotes to back up your point. But, in a world where the soundbite in the media rules, and a world where politicians
gain from accusing eachother of being ‘soft of drugs’ for taking a progressive approach, that argument is hard to access
through conventional ways. Whilst we as drug law reformers can (and do) win the scientific, moral, social, environmental and economic
arguments, when in a fair debate; the press and legal system is set against us. The slogan “Nice people take drugs”, as much as
a soundbite as any government official could produce, is refreshing. Were now playing them at the same game, and when it comes down to
it, if people actually look at the arguments, were winning.

To find out more about Release visit: http://www.release.org.uk/
Add me on twitter @charliethescarf

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