I think it’s time we admitted that using reasoning from facts is not a very good advocacy tool. So how should we advocate for better drug policy?
I put the question to a panel at a public screening of films organised by Harm Reduction Victoria. The best answer… said we need to focus on people’s compassion – illustrate the harm of current policies with stories to highlight the personal side.
That sounds like a good overarching strategy – what do people think?
I agree that the compassion approach has its place, but it will fall on many deaf ears while a number of false beliefs spread by prohibitionists remain current.
Uninformed people continue to believe that:
- drug dealing = murder
- there is no safe level of use of illicit drugs
- today's cannabis is a different and more dangerous substance than the low potency weed baby boomers smoked in the 1970s
- regulated legal supply would lead to an explosion of drug use
- prohibition reduces drug use and reduces harms
- drug users commit serious crime to a greater degree than straight people.
I like the LEAP billboard that said something like "Drugs are harmful but the War on Drugs is worse"
While I disagree with the unqualified "drugs are harmful" statement on its own -- clearly many accepted legal activities are more risky -- it harnesses a popular mindset so the main message can penetrate.
As for getting a more truthful multipronged message out (including a realistic assessment of the harms of drugs, as per David Nutt's recent work), I know how to do it but it would be a fulltime job. Budget: around $150,000 a year, maybe $200,000, with the possibility of becoming self-funding over time.
"Using reasoning from facts" is the best policy, but the message has to be polished, sloganised and constantly promoted both directly and through the press -- a 'War on Spin".
I'm looking for another job at the moment. Any rich benefactors out there?