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Just Say Now campaign aims to mainstream marijuana talk—thanks, Nancy Reagan!

By David Jenison

Mark Zuckerberg might be a punk-genius-billionaire in The Social Netw




Just Say Now campaign aims to mainstream marijuana talk—thanks, Nancy Reagan!

By David Jenison

Mark Zuckerberg might be a punk-genius-billionaire in The Social Network, but he’s apparently a company man in the ad room. At least that’s the impression Facebook gave after axing an ad for the legalization of marijuana. The Just Say Now ad, featuring a pot leaf in a “speech” balloon, chalked 38 million impressions before Facebook pulled the plug. They blamed the logo.

“The logo is a very specific symbol of what the Just Say Now campaign is trying to do, namely [to] get people to talk about marijuana policy,” says Firedoglake founder/blogger Jane Hamsher, who started her latest campaign with Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. “They subsequently gave us ever-skirting excuses as to why they did so—we were told that ‘the image in question was no long[er] acceptable for use in Facebook ads. The image of a pot leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies.’ But the Just Say Now campaign isn’t trying to get people to smoke more pot.”

The campaign’s goal is actually to change the discussion regarding marijuana drug laws, which they say are out-of-date and counterproductive. In addition to their high-profile messaging campaign, they are working to pass legislation ending marijuana prohibition. Their latest campaign will assist the marijuana initiatives on the ballot in California, Arizona, South Dakota and Oregon in November.

“People can come to the Just Say Now website and start calling people in those states who are registered to vote and likely to support the issue,” says Hamsher. The Just Say Now campaign brings state-of-the-art online tools to the legalization movement that are similar to those used by the Obama campaign in 2008.

Facebook may have taken an advertising avenue away, but Just Say Now actually benefited from all the media attention the controversy brought. People are even protesting the move by replacing their Facebook avatars with new Just Say Now logos featuring the word “censored” across the leaf. Nevertheless, there are opponents on the other side trying to stop the initiatives based on less altruistic motives.

Hamsher notes that the prison industrial complex and the professional rehab industry are two systems that reap big financial rewards from maintaining prohibition. Just Say Now is a wordplay on Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign in the mid-’80s, and since that time the number of people in U.S. federal prisons has quadrupled. The United States now has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. Of those, 53 percent are serving time for drug-related charges.

“More Americans were arrested for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined,” says Hamsher, noting there was an arrest every 37 seconds in 2009. That’s insane.”

Just Say Now includes members of law enforcement and representatives of the criminal justice system who are trying to change the public face of marijuana policy reform. Most members of the advisory panel don’t even smoke marijuana (Hamsher included). Instead, the bi-partisan group features several prominent professionals, including music industry vets Danny Goldberg and Bill Adler, who stand alongside former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper and Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan.

“Opponents of marijuana legalization have for years operated inside an impenetrable bubble sustained by the culture wars,” explains Hamsher. “We wanted to take the debate outside of the right/left, hippies vs. authoritarians dialectic. We consciously chose people for our advisory board whose arguments would not be dismissed by the very segments of the population who most need to be won over in order to end prohibition.”

This naturally gives the campaign organizers more credibility with hard-to-persuade sectors of the population when trying to have honest discussions of the topic. Hamsher continues, “That’s why the Just Say Now logo is a marijuana leaf in a speech bubble. Prohibition has pushed this conversation into the shadows, and it’s assumed that everyone who supports legalization is a pothead. They’re not. There are profoundly important reasons to end marijuana prohibition beyond a desire to smoke it.”

“One way or another, we’re going to get the message out there,” says Hamsher.

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