DoseNation Podcast

Weekly news, talk, and interviews. More »


· Articles
· Gear
· Interviews
· News
· Reviews
Contrasting Propaganda

Kymm C.

Four books for young and old have wildly varying viewpoints on drugs, but which ones have the facts?

I must admit that I laughed out loud when I first came across Grandpa's Marijuana Handbook: A Users Guide for Ages 50 and Up. I'm not over 50, but the title was just too delicious to pass up. Grandpa in this case is Evan Keliher, a glaucoma sufferer and retired school teacher who has been using marijuana to alleviate his symptoms for over 30 years. Now that California's Prop 215 has made his medication legal (sort of), he's mounted a campaign encouraging seniors the world over to grab a joint and get to curing what ails 'em.

I laughed out loud many times while reading this book. Keliher is a funny guy and Grandpa's Marijuana Handbook is a good read even if you're not a senior contemplating lighting up for the first time. Keliher has lots of advice for elderly stoners. Games to play while stoned lawn bowling is good, bridge or poker for money are not advised. Things to avoid while medicated the law and your grandkids. Tips for seniors trying to buy pot if a gang member takes your money in a dark alley and gives you lawn clippings in exchange, don't demand a refund.

Although Keliher assures us with a wink that his only interest in marijuana is medical, and that any euphoric or interesting mental states are unfortunate side effects, a large part of the book is devoted to an examination of these 'unfortunate' effects. For those novice users who don't know what to expect, he dispels a couple of basic myths and fears, and lays out what it feels like to be stoned. The book's greatest value, however, may not be in the facts Keliher includes, but in his demonstration that a long term marijuana user can enjoy a successful career, even go to grad school, complete a dissertation, write a book... all the while smoking pot on a regular basis.

The novelty value of this book lies in two things. The first is that it is aimed at senior citizens [Keliher is the one who classifies everyone over the age of 50 as a senior citizen, not me], a group not known for their rampant marijuana use. The second is that it is a rare example of drug propaganda that is actually pro-drug his goal seems not to be to inform seniors of the 'objective' facts of marijuana use, but rather to actively encourage the use of marijuana (because he likes it). This got me thinking about the extremes of drug literature, both in the age of the target audience and the views of the authors. So I decided to take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum to find out what's new in the world of drug propaganda aimed at children. Has the rhetoric changed considerably since the "this is your brain on drugs" and "Just say No" days?

The answer, not surprisingly, is that it hasn't changed a whole hell of a lot. I took a look at three recent publications: What to Teach Kids About Marijuana, published by the Parenting for Prevention Information Series, Drugs and the Law, by the Drug Abuse Prevention Library, and my favorite, Danger: Marijuana from the Drug Awareness Library's Danger series (other highlights include Danger: Crack and Danger: Inhalants). Of the lot, Drugs and the Law is the most balanced, which stands to reason as it seems to be aimed at the oldest age group middle school to high school age kids. The author, Janet Grosshandler, is a little heavier on the antidrug moralizing (you know, how to avoid peer pressure, etc.) than on the drug laws the book purports to be about. She does include recent medical marijuana statutes, a discussion of mandatory minimums, and current efforts to reign in tobacco companies. The 'Out-of-country Laws' section, however, veers dangerously close to absurdity in its in- depth discussion of the movie Midnight Express apparently required viewing for lawyers specializing in cross border drug cases.

What to Teach Kids About Marijuana is pretty classic antidrug propaganda, actually aimed at parents and teachers rather than children. The authors throw around statements like "Three times more potent and toxic than it was a decade ago, marijuana poses a serious threat to the health and safety of young people who use it today," with no attempt to cite sources. This is rather ironic considering that one of their tips for "helping your child choose wisely" is to "learn the facts and teach the facts. When you speak to your child, you want him or her to find you believable."

But the prize for the hands down most ludicrous book has to go to Danger: Marijuana. Written apparently for four to eight years olds, it helpfully sounds out words like addicted (a-DIK-ted), stoned (STONED), and marijuana (mare-I-WA-na) which is defined thusly, "A drug that slows down a person's body and makes him or her see things that aren't there". It includes such gems as, "When someone inhales [marijuana] smoke, it goes through the lungs and into the blood-stream (BLUD-stream). Then it reaches the brain. It hurts your body along the way", and "You probably like to watch TV [apparently this is good] or play with your friends or read. If you use marijuana, you might laugh and act silly for a little while. But when the marijuana wears off, you won't want to play baseball or ride your bike or see your friends... All you'll want to do is use more marijuana." Danger: Marijuana also features a nice picture of what looks like a bag of oregano on the cover, and to illustrate the 'fact' that marijuana (and oregano?) makes you feel "tired, sad, and sometimes even sick to your stomach," it also includes a picture of a woman clutching her stomach in front of a row of empty beer bottles. Methinks the authors are a bit confused.

After reading all these books for kids, I know I should have a moral to end my story a catchy aphorism that ties things up. But I am, sadly, moral-less. All I know is that however old you are, there is drug propaganda out there for you, and that after much reflection, I think I'd rather hang out at Evan Keliher's hypothetical tokin' nursing home than at the Danger preschool.

Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2001-03-06 00:00:00