Propoganda for the Masses
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a federally-funded prohibitionist group, spends over $1 billion dollars a year on anti-drug advertising. Much of that money comes out of taxpayer pockets, many of whom don't even agree with the message they are sending. (A significant portion of their funding also comes from private organizations - mostly manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs, beer, and tobacco.)
Over the years, everything from slight misinformation to outright lies has been attempted by prohibitionist advertising capaigns. Usually, the ads don't even bother explaining the facts or discussing the issues; rather, they go directly for an emotional score, such as the infamous "This is your brain on drugs" commercials. These advertisements, along with literature produced by these groups, qualify as propoganda because they play on their audience's emotions, rather than presenting the facts and allowing us to decide for ourselves.
This excellent document covers many common themes in prohibitionist propaganda, and is highly recommended reading. It is, however, a bit dry. The following overview is based largely on many of the points presented in that document.
Myth: Drugs are illegal because they are dangerous. Legal drugs are safe.
Truth: In fact, laws do not accurately reflect the dangers of the drugs they cover. Several of the most deadly and addictive drugs known to man are not only legal, but a huge part of the US economy: alcohol and nicotine. The two together have claimed millions of lives of their users in recent years, and the number continues to rise. At the same time, there are drugs that have been proven completely safe in a multitude of studies and which result in not a single death of their users, ever. These drugs include marijuana, LSD, and mescaline (peyote). The vast majority of illegal drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin have been shown to have certain potential health risks but generally are safe to use in carefully regulated dosages; in fact, all of these drugs put together score much lower than alcohol or cigarettes in the annual death toll.
Myth: Drugs are illegal because they are addictive. Legal drugs are not as addictive.
Truth: Nicotine, a legal drug, is more addictive than any illegal drug, including heroin. Take a look at this chart to put things into perspective.
Myth: Drugs have an innumerable number of side effects both mental and physical. That's why you should stay away from them.
Truth: It's not untrue that drug use can affect your life in many ways, some of which may be unexpected. That's not the myth. But everything that we ever choose to do in life has side effects. For example, someone that chooses to be an athlete will have to deal with injuries and extra strain on their body. There may be many small changes in their appearance, sleeping habits, diet, and even their outlook on life. Some of these changes may be considered positive, some neutral, and some negative. At any given point the athlete must choose whether all of the effects on their life are worth it for them, in exchange for the rewards they reap from their sport. Everything in our life is like this, from the career path we choose to the car (or lack thereof) we choose to drive, to the food we eat, to the people we spend time with. Use of drugs, whether it be for recreational, medical, or theraputic purposes, is just another life choice best left to the individual.
Myth: There are only two choices, complete prohibition and complete legalization.
Truth: Supporters of prohibition wish their audience to believe that the only choice other than complete prohibition is complete legalization. This is what is known as a duality: arguing as if the situation only has two discrete and extreme choices. There are many ways that we can decriminalize drug use without legalizing it. We have a society which is filled with examples of these halfways: alcohol, for example, is very stringently regulated by our government, only available to those over the age of 21, and only available for purchase at certain places and certain times. Thousands of prescription drugs are available only under the direct supervision of a medical professional. Cigarettes are available to those over 18, and they may only smoke them in certain places.