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January 24, 2021

Weed Propaganda From the 1960s

The 1960s brought us tie-dye, sit-ins and fears of large-scale drug use. Hippies smoked marijuana, kids in ghettos pushed heroin, and Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor, urged the world to try LSD. In popular imagination, the 1960s were the heyday of illegal drug use – but historical data indicate they probably weren’t. In fact, surveys show that drug abuse was comparably rare, as was accurate information about the effects of illegal drugs.


In a 1969 Gallup poll, only 4% of American adults said they had tried marijuana. Thirty-four percent said they didn’t know the effects of marijuana, but 43% thought it was used by many or some high school kids. In 1972, 60% of Americans thought that marijuana was physically addictive (research shows that it is generally not physically addictive because regular users rarely show physical withdrawal symptoms, but marijuana can be psychologically addictive).

Alana Anderson, a child custody officer, graduated from college in 1969. “My generation was told that marijuana caused acne, blindness, and sterility,” she said. “It was a scare tactic rather than an education tactic.”

Teens of Anderson’s generation were as observant as they are now. They noticed the difference between parental warnings and actual fact. So, many of them stopped believing anti-drug messages in general. “Scare tactics are a big disaster,” said Gary De Blasio, executive director of Corner House Counseling Center for Adolescents and Young Adults in Princeton, N.J., “They don’t work, especially if you use them on kids who have used drugs.”


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