Seamus McGrenery

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Can we do anything about the marketing of illegal drugs?

We know that the distribution and sale of illegal drugs is a multi-billion dollar industry. But it is an illegal industry, so how does it advertise? Maybe deliberate product placement in movies is one way.

Maybe many people assume that the illegal drug business does not need to advertise. Or maybe people think that the industry can rely on the occasional ‘free’ plug by pop stars.

Offhand, though, I can’t think of any other large scale consumer industry that does not put a lot of effort into persuading more people to try it’s products.

The illegal drugs industry is constantly losing customers, to arrest, to recovery and-like the tobacco industry-to early death. It would be naieve to think that it does not work hard to replace them.

Product placement is a well-known, and widely studied, market for placing normal commercial products in movies as a way of marketing them. The practice is as old as the cinema.

So how would that work for the illegal drugs industry? We could look at how the tobacco industry reacted to the banning of its advertisements from TV. One way was to pay for product placement in movies.

A study found one in five movies features illegal drugs, not so far off the number the feature cigarette smoking. The tobacco industry pays for the inclusion of smoking in many of the films that feature it. Why wouldn’t the illegal drugs industry do the same? After all they have the same need to keep recruiting new users.

Both Misha Glenny and Rodrigo Canales tell us that the illegal drug business often works like other multinational businesses.

Freakonomics author Steven Levit claims that the economics of the illegal drug industry works in a similar way to McDonald's. It is the McDonald's corporation, not your local restaurant that arranges for its products to feature in the movies. They do it to boost local sales, and their own profits.

So, if illegal drugs are being deliberately marketed through movies, is there anything we can do about it?

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    Apr 15 2014: The Only one solution - legalize all illegal drugs and take Legal control over them.

    Humans are uncontrolable in their actions anyway, but at least this disaster will be visible to public and schools.

    P.S. FDA commonly approves deadly-dangerous drugs and treatments..what is the difference?
    • Apr 16 2014: This. the only way to get rid of illegal drugs is to legalise them. The more you force it underground, the more dangerous it gets. The only things that should really be focussed on are keeping children away from anything of this nature until they are old enough to understand the risks, effects and consequences of their actions. Most drugs aren't even that bad, yet Alcohol (as harmful as Heroin) is legal almost everywhere.....
  • Apr 8 2014: BAN EVERYTHING! KILL EVERYONE! Then we will have complete obedience to all laws! That should make you very happy.

    Those of us who actually have the capacity for rational thought realize we need to examine these "illegal" drugs on the basis of actual hazard instead of the silly scare tactics used by moralists.
    • Apr 14 2014: Bryan Maloney. Thanks for your input.

      The actual hazard.
      I have 2 grown grandson's. Their Dad sired them while high as a kite.
      Their Mother lost them to a Judge after he gave her two years to straighten out.
      Now they are grown men.
      One is being released from Prison this month. The other is running from the law.
      They are broken, like broken toys. Drugs and violence are their way of life.

      I live in the center of my town. My health is poor, and I can only walk a block or
      two. My neighbors are on Housing assistance and varies Social Welfares.
      I watch over them, and cull out the bad ones.
      In my 6th year here, we now have a genuine good community of happy campers.

      The other day, my daughter brought me home from the hospital.
      Suddenly I was assaulted by 4 or 5 neighbors who needed me to toss out some bad guys,
      who had invaded the apartment of another neighbor, and had spent the last 2 nights in
      raucous fun, and had solicited 2 young girls to come and do cocaine. One girl was 10 and
      the other was 12. The 10 year old was my granddaughter.

      I took care of business.
      The police arrived 2 hours later.
      Silly scare tactics Bryan Maloney?

      I pose this to be a real life moral problem.
      • Apr 14 2014: That was cocaine, and rational analysis agrees that cocaine is a very high-hazard substance. They also agree that alcohol is high-hazard. Where's the outcry to ban alcohol?

        It links to the Lancet paper that gives more detail.

        Taking the three categories (dependency, social harm, physical harm) as input to a clustering algorithm produces three distinct clusters. The most hazardous cluster consists of heroin, alcohol, cocaine, barbituates, and street methadone. If we attempt to correlate cluster membership with legal status, we get a correlation coefficient of 0.19. If we square that, we get approximately 0.04, which means that roughly 4% of the legal status of an intoxicant has anything at all to do with its actual hazard.

        Yes, SOME drugs are extremely hazardous. Others are not. The law does not reflect the level of hazard. I gave the citation for the paper. You can look it up, yourself. The clustering analysis was my own.
        • Apr 15 2014: Bryan, I spend (or used to) 10 to 15 hours a day deep into algebra as I design
          my computer spreadsheet program. Thank you for all your hard work.

          I can tell you from observation that hard drugs are bad, and cause deaths
          and wreck families.
          But, as a young man, there were no hard drugs. None, zero. We heard on the
          grapevine about "reefers" and the college kids sneaking down to TJ in Mexico to
          try and buy some.
          So these last 65 years I have watched corporal punishment vanish, and kids tell
          their parents to "stuff a sock in it", and "crash pads", "hippies", "yippies", etc.

          I have watched as the San Fernando Valley began to cover the windows of homes
          with bars of steel, as crime exploded with drive-by shootings.

          I have seen Navaho, and Apache become 80% alcoholic.

          I have experienced my Children and Grandchildren fall to the ravages of Drugs.

          I have wondered --- Why our US Government allows such? To what purpose?
          Today --
          The Poppy Fields of Afghanistan are yielding 36% more poison this year than last.
          Liken to Viet Nam, will our soldiers return as addicts?
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        Apr 15 2014: Thank you for sharing the real harm done to your family.

        When we discuss these subjects we should never forget that we are talking about real people.
      • Apr 15 2014: Frank, you are obfuscating and fear-mongering. Give a definition of "hard drug". List them. Do you count alcohol among them? Do you count marijuana? The math can't be quibbled with. Actual risk-based assessment have NO CORRELATION AT ALL with legal status of a given substance. Heroin and cocaine ARE bad. But that does not mean the law is infallible and that ALL substances classified by the government as "bad, no matter what" actually are that hazardous.
        • May 6 2014: Bryan, I am confusing and scaring? I think not.
          What about you? Are you obeying the laws of the land?
          Whether or not you agree, the laws are there for your protection.
          Society doesn't make laws for you to pick and choose which ones to obey.

          Alcohol is by far the worst poison consumed that the Law allows.
          Marijuana, like cigarettes, is a slow acting poison, but it is illegal.
          We all know what happens when someone smokes Marijuana
          over long periods of time. It causes economic losses to society.

          Ask your local Policeman about Drugs and their Effects. You may
          be surprised to learn, the truth, from someone who has to deal with
          the results on a daily basis.
  • May 1 2014: Pass the drug education test, then be allowed to buy the legal drug. Oh and make suicide legal...
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    Apr 17 2014: Drugs have been around for a long time, yet their popularity seems to be increasing dramatically over the past 20-30 years. Demand is growing; I've seen it with my own eyes, as I'm a counselor at a 28 day Drug Rehab. Legalization of all drugs may lead to less drug dealers, however those that are addicted will continue to use and will resort to criminal activity to get the money needed to purchase their drug of choice.

    What I've seen are generations of families that have been ravaged by the effects of drug dealing and use. It is a cultural, social, and economic issue that is not easily fixed. Simply arresting drug dealers isn't fixing the problem, as another individual will quickly take their place. We aren't winning the war on drugs and there are no simple solutions. What's worse is the supply of drugs that many are using is heavily cut with toxic chemicals for dealers to meet demand. In speaking with addicts, they report that drugs that they've used for multiple years are not the same as they were years earlier. Yet this doesn't change their desire to use drugs.

    We are a society that continues to believe a drug whether legal or illegal will fix our problems. Pharmaceutical companies continue to make big money by promising a little pill will fix your depression. The illegal drug trade is no different. Perhaps the first step we need to take is to do a better job of teaching individuals that life is challenging and begin providing them the tools and coping skills to deal with those challenges in a healthy manner.
    • Apr 18 2014: Adrian,

      Thank you for what you contributed, I found it rather enriching for multiple reasons. Something I like to do with statements is employ them in different contexts to explore how useful them notion happen to be.
      -'Stuff' has been around for a long time, yet the popularity of certain things seems to be increasing dramatically over the past years
      - provide the tools and coping skills to deal with 'stuff' in a healthy manner still requires the user to employ the tools and skills appropriately. though if one knows what to do it may facilitate doing it.

      Of course one may know the detox challenges and still may need to be tied to the mast to get through the sirens wailings… for being under the direct influence of stuff and change the ways one reasons… in ( ) there is the notion that within the addictive thinking schemata the reasonable and logical thing to do is consume and the illogical thing to do is to abstain! Thus asking them to be reasonable and logical can be counter productive! Followthrough the program and then well talk about the sirens luring songs. being under the direct influence of stuff and change the ways one reasons… thus the best way to deal with certain stuff is to abstain from it… like I told someone sometimes the best and only solution to the problem involves not having it! Fixing a broken glass is more complicated than ensuring one just doesn't brake it, so deal with 'stuff' in a healthy manner is sound advice!
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        Apr 25 2014: Maybe we can think of a way of making the 'sirens song' a bit less loud?
  • Apr 14 2014: We could shoot the messenger...

    I watched the Wolf of Wall Street the other night.
    I could easily relate to the plot. My life exactly, with one
    exception. I've not done illegal drugs. Never, Ever.
    I did everything else.

    As I watched, I was appalled at the plot using illegal drugs
    to reinforce the storyline.

    I have lost 2 son-in-laws to the drug trade.
    Both dead at approximately age 35.
    They both died, high as a kite.
    One, was strangled by vomit, and the other had an alcoholic's bad liver.
    I had planned to shoot them myself, but I couldn't stand the thought
    of losing the love of my daughters.

    Movie Maker's and Media's are not our friends.
    Politician's are not our friends.
    Religious Leader's are not our friends.
    The Elite 1% are not our friends.

    History --
    In 1982, Senator Kerry's committee was informed
    that the CIA was in the Drug Business 24/7.
    The CIA is not our friends.

    As for Senator Kerry? You decide.

    During President Obama's South American trip,
    other leaders informed him that the War on Drugs
    was lost. The War had been chugging along since
    about 1960-62. Not much happening since.

    The Secret Service grabbed the headlines by their refusal
    to properly pay their Whores. And the War on Drugs?
    It became a non-issue, shunted to the back pages.

    We could shoot the messenger...
    • Apr 15 2014: In other words, your personal loss makes you blind to reality and you are so lock-stepped and limited that you think the law is infallible and must never be amended, no matter what.
      • May 6 2014: Bryan, I suffered no personal loss.
        I despised both those idiots. I should have shot them. I wish I had.
        Bryan, I have learned to live with various laws that I do not agree with.
        In other words, please try to better understand what I write.
  • Apr 10 2014: All we have to do is give all people the basic right and freedom to choose their own destiny and choosing what you put into your body is about as basic as it gets. However government is no more about freedom than religion is about saving souls, both are about profit at any expense. Is the main strategy for war killing people? No it is not. The best strategy in war is to wound people. That is why they use small bullets that will go right through a human but not kill them. That is why they use fragment bombs to injure as many people as possible. Why injure people instead of killing them? Because for every injured person it takes many other people to care for them and ties up those resources for a long period of time, resources that could otherwise be used to fight the war. The same empires that are built through war are built the same way for business and government. The object is to accumulate as many people as possible to be under your control and the best ways to do that is to make them dependent on you in as many ways as possible. You can control even the wildest of animals simply by providing something they want like food or shelter, the government and business know that. They know that with just a little training you will jump through any hoop to get what you want. Then the next step is to tell you what you want, that is what our education system and religion is all about.
    Drugs? That is just the tip of the iceberg. Our society is under complete control in every aspect of our lives, we are slaves plain and simple. What would you do tomorrow if you did not have money?
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    Apr 9 2014: Hi Seamus,
    As long as there is a market for drugs, they will continue to be distributed in one way or another. One of the big challenges now, is the illegal sale and use of PERSCRIPTION drugs.

    Like you is a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to be very well supported. The drug industry does not really lose customers to arrest. They continue buying, selling and using while in the correctional facility/prison, and/or continue buying, selling and use when they are released. Nothing is really lost from the drug market when people are incarcerated.

    I agree that the drug industry works like any other industry.....if there is a market for the product, it will continue to be produced, marketed, bought, sold, and used.

    How about if people stopped using? Now there is a truly naïve idea!!! I wish I had an answer to your question:>)
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    May 6 2014: I'd be surprised if the drug industry would do the same, do you have proof?

    Reason being, they are just not that well organised as the tobacco industry, they have no organisation representing their mutual benefits, no lobbyists trying to push industry wide regulatory advantages.

    Anyways, all drugs should be legalized, that will be the path to minimize their use and to minimize negative side effects such as petty crime, overdose, organised crime and large scale drug wars, such as in Mexico, where over 120000 people have been killed because of the fact that drugs are illegal.
    Illegalisation brings no benefit, does not to deter use, and it provides a steady source of income to organized crime, just like the prohibition did.
  • May 6 2014: Legalize with 5 % extra state tax and higher insurance premiums.
  • May 5 2014: Here the most important part is the definition of the word illegal. You see there are few drugs which are good but are banned because they actually make you right sooner which takes away profitability of pharmaceutical companies. So illegal drugs have to be put on table and have to be diagnosed whether it is actually illegal or no. There are certain illegal drugs which shouldnt be invented but there are few which are invented but existence is still hidden.
  • May 1 2014: Actually governments're trying to do sth about that issue , unfortunately not all of them but some of them are also in this marketing job , so at first we have to start doing sth from there I mean ones who are also in this job.As we fix the problem which cares he other fixers there would be most probably a chain reaction.
  • Apr 30 2014: The illegal drug business needs no advertising. These addictive substances keep bringing customers back for more and more. A friend or someone whom you are close with introduces you to the substance and you are hooked. Simple as that.
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      May 2 2014: It is a mystery to me why so many people assume that this category of consumer product can grow it's market without some form of advertising.

      It is clear the people selling illegal drugs use marketing tools like giving out free samples and marking point of sale. If you believe the movie 'American Gangster' they also use branding.

      So why not advertising?
  • Apr 23 2014: Kill everyone. That is the only way to ensure no laws are ever broken. After all actually bothering to have rational laws is far beyond the mental capacity of most people.
  • Apr 21 2014: I have suggested solution for long time and written to city hall, congressmen and Senators. But they are not interested because many illegal drug buyers are rich or powerful or both, That is why we here confessional of public figures post facts/

    couple of ways:
    (1) death penalty


    (2) Very heavy penalty on buyers and no penalty for sellers. If person caught buying in a vehicle take away his vehicle. First arrest penalty 5000, second 10,000, third 25000 or life. Then they should be release at their house in a prcession of cops with siren singing as the neighborhood approaches.

    (3) Penalty of one years salary

    or legalize like alcohol. If crime committed under the influence, penalty for the crime goes up. So drugs are legal but weight of crime goes up.

    Illegal drugs market is driven by money and most of the money comes form middle class up white guys. They have collectively strong influence from white race bias. We are not willing to solve the problem.

    NYC had strong Italian Mafia. Italian were in police force, judiciary, Government. As they got moved into different field their power decreased. Union position declined and civil liberties increased in practice for minorities, their power has decreased. When Las Vegas Casinos were forced into corporation, power of Mafia decreased and small time crimes froml Little people increased.
  • Apr 20 2014: Simple; instead of treating drug addiction and usage as a crime, treat it as an illness and get them help.
  • Apr 19 2014: Hello I am Colombian in my country know very well about the problem of illegal drug marketing and powerless as each day we see our youth use illegal drugs. I think the only way to avoid this market continues to grow is reducing demand and the only way to reduce demand is through preventive education with younger children in kindergarten. Just like we are teaching our children from to consume healthy food we can also teach them the terrible consequences of using drugs.

    As for the production of currently illegal drugs, the procedure is the same, reducing demand production would be reduced, and it is the responsibility of the consumer countries initiate effective campaigns for its citizens to not take illegal drugs, while there who buy someone will sell this is inevitable.
    • May 2 2014: I think preventative education is part of the solution. The US does have a program called DARE run through the police department that would come to schools and educate children about abusive substances including illegal drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. I can still vividly remember some of the lessons I learned through that program. For example, in middle school a police officer shared a story with us about a young woman who took a hallucinogen, had a "bad trip," locked herself in a bathroom, and used a shaving razor to cut chunks out of her flesh because she couldn't get the spiders off. This story really stuck with me. Even though I have had many opportunities, I will never use any substance that could remotely cause something like this. Too often illegal drugs are romanticized in movies and TV shows like Seamus has pointed out, or by those trying to sell them for obvious reasons. Programs like DARE are needed to show that the reality of drug use isn't always pleasurable. Fortunately, I also come from a family with parents who don't use illegal drugs and the lessons learned through DARE were reinforced at home. I have a feeling that lessons learned in this program are often thwarted in a home where drugs exist. I am not sure how the cycle could be broken when drug users pass on their habits to their children. The damage can be done before education can save them. I also had a friend who attended the same programs, but died from an overdose on heroine. His father and older brother abuse it as well and still do. Education worked for me, but not for him. It is a good place to start.
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    Apr 19 2014: art imitating life? probably.
  • Apr 18 2014: In the United States, legal vs. Illegal is only a matter of who delivers the product. Legal Medicines are distributed according to how much money you have, simply put, money buys drugs. Illegal is not even relative here. *0% of our commercials on TV are for drugs, and it is widely accepted that drugs are good for you if you need them or not. Illegal means if your caught you will go to jail and legal means that you shopped for the right doctors.
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    Apr 18 2014: Can we do anything about the marketing of illegal drugs?

    When EVERYONE has enough intelligence and skills to do work that is productive and moral sense to behave as responsitble member of the human race, then there will be no one to produce and sell harmful and/or illegal drugs.

    What can we do?

    We must educate everyone, help each other, and care for each other. Is this doable? Yes. Are we willing to do it? That's the question.
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      Apr 25 2014: Good positive suggestions.

      Unfortunately a lot of people are profit from not caring for or helping the rest of the people.

      But maybe if more people become active we can move in the direction you suggest.
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      May 6 2014: No it's not doable, read Animal Farm, a shared ideology is NEVER ubiquitous, people will always surface to take advantage of flaws in the system, such as the tremendous amounts of money to be earned if very few people are willing to produce drugs. Even when you would try a massive propaganda campaign as you are suggesting.

      Second, you are claiming a moral highground that just isn't there.
      What we would consider illegal in the Western world (such as mushrooms and marihuana), might be considered sacred elsewhere (such as Brazilian rain forest and Jamaica).
      In the meantime we consider alcohol, which is by any definition a harmful and addictive drug, perfectly morally correct to consume.
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    Apr 15 2014: In my opinion, the simple solution would be to decriminalize the use of illegal drugs, while controlling the sale of less addicting and dangerous drugs such as marijuana through dispensaries and cafes that cater to such consumers. With the tax-dollars saved from not incarcerating non-violent drug offenders, and the tax-dollars earned from legal marijuana sales, the government could provide free rehabilitation programs for users of more dangerous controlled substances such as heroin and cocaine. These rehabilitation programs could focus not only on drug addiction, but on how to integrate drug addicts back into society, effectively removing the negative social stigma and misdemeanor/felony drug charges.

    I'm not sure how Ireland has addressed the issue of illegal drug use and sales, but in the United States it appears that our problem is that we fail to address the socioeconomic issues that oftentimes lead to drug abuse. With the famed "War on Drugs" being a monumental failure and money-sink, instead of reforming our drug prohibition, intervention, and rehabilitation programs, we have continued to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders at an alarming rate. According to Reason, non-violent drug offenders account for approximately 25% of the federal prison population of 1.5 million (source: The fact of the matter is that if these non-violent drug offender's lives were quite horrible before prison, their lives are not going to get much better after parole, mainly because they now have a criminal record and are not likely to be readily employable (plus a drug offense limits one's eligibility for attaining federal student loans, which greatly restricts one's ability to afford college or trade school).

    As for the sale of illegal drugs, the very fact that a drug is illegal makes it a more viable product to be sold. Scarcity and risk allows for the illegal drug to be quite profitable.
    • Apr 16 2014: Michael,

      The water-sink doesn't make the water disappear it just channels it into a particular channel … Getting rid of the livelihood stemming from incarcerating non-violent drug offenders isn't high on the agenda of those living from that… also as you mentioned the laws make it a more viable product to be profitably sold! In fact if you look at the whole scheme of things the system feeds itself . What do you think those with a criminal record will likely end up doing when they get out? Given the limited legal option they now have...
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        Apr 17 2014: Agreed. This is why I believe that socioeconomic factors play a significant role in drug use and sales. If an individual does not qualify for a job that pays much more than minimum wage, it quite simply is more profitable to sell drugs, where they could make anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars in a single day. If one compares that to working 40 hours a week while making around minimum wage, regardless of the risk, it makes more economic sense to sell drugs. For individuals with criminal records and less than stellar employment histories, it's a relative no-brainer to sell drugs.

        Now I'm not advocating that anyone should quit their job and start selling drugs, but when there is such an absurd amount of profit to be made (mainly because of these drugs being illegal), it shouldn't be a shock as to why some individuals choose to sell drugs. This is particularly the case if they are supporting their own drug habit by selling drugs.

        As for the "marketing" of illegal drugs though indirect "advertising" through movies and television, I honestly think that correlation does not necessitate causation. Drugs sell themselves because they work, and individuals become "addicted" because self-medication is oftentimes a more convenient and cost-effective way of escaping whatever ails them. For instance, I would love to be able to have the time and money to go on an extravagant vacation in order to recharge from the daily grind, but due to my socioeconomic conditions, it's much more practical, convenient, and cost-effective for me to purchase a case of beer, a pack of cigarettes, and a Netflix subscription. Please keep in mind that my life isn't "bad" enough for me to self-medicate any further than this, but it doesn't surprise me that some individuals turn to more "hardcore" drugs, and it's not because they watched it on television or in a movie, but because these drugs actually work.
    • Apr 17 2014: Michael,

      The notion that --it quite simply is more profitable to do it this way-- plays a role into many many situations going on!
      BTW the fact one thinks that exposure to something does not cause one to be affected by it hardly changes the facts that one is affected by it. I agree with you that some resort to convenient and cost-effective ways of escapisms and I would add ways that end up costing them much much more than they bargained for. The thing is that under the circumstances the alternatives are a bit more complicated and challenging to incorporate, especially under direct influence of certain stuff. To use the metaphor of the boiling frog with a bit of a twist… the frog knows the water is getting hotter and hotter thing is jumping out of it will lead to jumping into the flaming forest and just maybe staying in the pond for a little bit longer will enable it to survive and then thrive.

      In my response to what we can do about the marketing of certain ideas I pointed out that we can let the marketeers know how they missed out on a huge profit because of what they chose to do and what they better do to actually capitalize on making real gains. Easier said than done especially given the present rewards structures involved. Actual survival depends on present and future persistence; it's not one or the other it's one and the other. What many businesses still have to realize is that its more profitable to endure than to make a quick buck. The roller coaster is just a ride at an amusement park and there are much better rides to be had…would you get into hotel california where You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave!' ? Are 'we are all just prisoners here, of our own device'? The ticked in is rather accessible, for it's the ticket out that will cost each one a fortune. Then again we may have checked in to fix up the place.

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    Apr 15 2014: Pleasure needs no advertisment. Most of humanity are in pain and more pleasure does not neccessarily translate to less pain, but it sometimes amplifies pain when it becomes addictive.
    Illegal drugs are bad, they are evil. Sophism would not make them less evil. The idea that humanity's freedom is everyone being able to do what he/she pleases, anyhow and anywhere, is the perfect recipe for disaster.

    People have so much financial 'freedom' and they end up being cocaine addicts locked up in some rehab.

    How's that for freedom.
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      Apr 15 2014: Good points - though most other pleasures are advertised.
    • Apr 15 2014: The sophism that a bad idea is a good idea because its the lesser of two evils or because it is a necessary evil or because its a temporary state used as a trampoline to a better way hardly changes the facts of the matter ( a bad idea be a bad idea); though it certainly seems like a sufficient reason for some to justify doing what they choose to do. Elusion, Illusion, allusion have completely different meanings and depending on the use may be properly employed to further different causes. The same could be said of what we do about the marketing of stuff. Just keep in mind that getting someones attention can be done in multiple ways and as long as one gets the attention what one does can be secondary.
  • Apr 14 2014: So what if we made something healthy and illigalize it.
  • Apr 14 2014: Seamus,

    Yea actively boycott any movie that has such advertisements while letting 'them' know why you have done it and the implications involved… Just make sure you focus on promoting what ought to be promoted… for example … I wanted to endorse your movie within my community of 100,000 individuals and had it had decent attires and presented controversial topic from a more pro well-being stand would had.

    In other words, we better do stuff, that cultivates and focuses on what we desire to promote… bringing attention to certain issues will likely 'exacerbate' them, the better approach would be to focus attention on something better! Say rather than list all the things not to do (and giving ideas to individuals) list all the things to do (that way the giving ideas to individuals focus on what be desirable).

    BTW, I think it's the other way around … the movies employ certain ideas because they know that will help the movies sell! Now please note that I see how you yourself are marketing a product while actually oblivious to how you are promoting it likely thinking you are not even engaging in the promotion of said product. In fact if I am right about what you are doing then you are now coming up with reasons to dismiss what I just said rather than delving deeper into understanding the comment and the implications.

    Now that I have brought this last part to your consciousness there is a better chance that you will seek to understand what I just said.
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      Apr 15 2014: Thank you for a positive suggestion Esteban.

      Though for a story to be interesting it is rarely all positive. Good stories have problems to be solved, challenges to be overcome, weaknesses in character to be faced up to. Many great positive movies have these qualities.

      I am aware that drawing attention to anything adds to the interest in it, hence the saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Part of the plot of Wolf of Wall Street makes that very point.
      • Apr 15 2014: Seamus,

        I been working around the issue of creating a good story that involves facing challenges through attaining and developing character traits, abilities, and tools to 'overcome' 'obstacles' which enable the main character (and other) to be successful and able to stretch, stimulate, inspire, activate encounter and experience ever enriching circumstances that deal with the stuff in a better form. In other words I sort of have been working on what 'we' can do about the situation to bring about a better state of being through the proper 'marketing' of stuff.

        The challenge involved presents multiple 'twists', 'turns' and 'transformations' that may be characterized as 'struggles for dominion', 'restrained actions' 'guided willful moves'. One metaphor I find useful involves the interchange between 'the deranged fighter' and 'the graceful dancer' who happen to entangle into what becomes a definitive shared encounter; will it become a win-lose fight or become a win-win-win dance? It's sort of a paradoxical how in the win-lose one can wins even when one losses and one may lose even when one wins; that is if dancer fights and wins they lose for they got into a fight rather than get the fighter into a dance... and if dancers forfeits the fight they concede to the fighter the encounter. In a way this is instantiated and reflected in what you inquired about. Doing something about the subject matter adds to the interest in it (and helps spread it) and not doing something about the subject matter also allows it to spread. To continue with the metaphor here the dancer needs to gracefully engage and willfully guide moves to bring about and cultivate what the dancer desire to promote while engaging in an enriching entertaining exercise transforming the fighter into a dance partner. I realize that many great positive movies have certain 'opposing and contrasting' qualities included in them as part of their plot. Thing is that may be because we still need to learn stuff.
  • Apr 9 2014: Examine the time of prohibition in the USA. Prohibition immediately increased alcohol consumption and alcoholism. Then came the gangs (mafia) with drive-by shootings. Mafioso (gangs) were going into school yards to recruit members. It was finally overturned when the violence of prohibition was greater than the violence associated with alcohol consumption.

    Prohibition doesn't work. What has worked (In Portugal and the Netherlands) is decriminalization. Pot should be legalized everywhere. It is not physically addictive. It does not make people violent (it makes them passive). it is a natural substance that grows almost everywhere naturally. The brain even has specific receptors for it.

    Look at the violence because pot has been made illegal. It's ludicrous
    • Apr 14 2014: Gail G3 Thanks for your input.

      Gail, If we only obeyed the laws we wanted to obey, and refused to obey when we
      decided those laws were not in our best interests, we would have no reason for any

      My brain does not have specific receptors for Pot.
      My library is not the same as yours.

      Then there's this ---
      What happens when you smoke Pot ??? Nothing... Almost Nothing...

      My neighbor gets his Social Security Disability, and his Housing Allowance.
      He pays his Rent. Shops and buys Food. Spends the rest on Pot.
      It is a great life. My taxes allow him to do nothing all month, every month.
      No sign of any disability. I have known him 6 years. No sign of any disability.

      He was a Meth Addict and his teeth are destroyed, but California has a great
      Dental plan for those who cannot afford to pay.
      No sign of any disability. I have known him 6 years. No sign of any disability.

      Only in America
      • Apr 17 2014: Alcohol does more damage. Why is it legal?
        • Apr 18 2014: Bryan, when WW1 was drawing our young men overseas, the women
          really pressed hard for prohibition. It was hard to blame them. Many men
          who drank, beat their women, and the women were tired of being treated so.

          Today, after 55 years of an illegal drug culture, we are almost at the same
          point. We are tired of addicts affecting our lives so. And devil Alcohol just
          keeps sticking around. If anything worse now than then.

          Our US government does nothing on either front. Oh, they play with Wars on
          Drugs, and have finally whipped drunken driving to some degree. But so have
          they done so with litter laws.

          Geographical Government's, regardless of type, are a bad joke. And very
          dangerous to us all.
      • Apr 20 2014: All laws are right! It is a BLASPHEMY to ever repeal ANY LAW AT ALL! Worship the government!
        • Apr 21 2014: Bryan, some of the extra features that you've included
          would truly please the most discriminating fanatic!
  • Apr 9 2014: Before I comment, who gets to decide if a drug is illegal? because honestly some of these legal drugs are way more dangerous than these illegal drugs, and dont forget, ALCOHOL IS STILL LEGAL!!!!

    It seems to me that, if the "western supper powers of the world" cant own it then no one can.
    Why is it that the "black"/ " brown" man can't be economically empowered?
    • Apr 15 2014: The TED Conversations Team asked me to do a re-write. So, I went overboard.

      Katlego, You asked --
      "Why is it that the "black"/ " brown" man can't be economically empowered?"

      Example -- South Africa
      59% of South Africans have never held a job. 25% unemployment is a standard.
      My daughter says that they just need more time. I find that a weak argument.

      The Brain Drain
      There has been a large degree of human capital flight from South Africa in recent years.
      South Africa's Bureau of Statistics estimates that between 1 million and 1.6 million people
      in skilled, professional, and managerial occupations have emigrated since 1994 and that,
      for every emigrant, 10 unskilled people lose their jobs.

      The Reverse Brain Drain consists of Lawyers and Accountants, Doctors and Engineers.
      Lawyers and Accountants? "Carpetbaggers", certainly not the cream of the crop.

      I wonder, if I lived under that thumb, would I blame "western supper powers of the world" ???
      I think not. I would not remain there to suffer. I would move, emigrate, and change my life.
      Drugs and the Political Art of "Looking The Other Way".
      Since the US came down on the Taliban and occupied Afghanistan in 2001, heroin production
      in the country has surged almost "40-fold". One year ago the estimated number of heroin addicts
      dying due to Afghan heroin in the preceding decade surpassed well over one million deaths.

      Last year, Afghanistan harvested a record quantity of opium. The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board maintains that Afghan poppy fields now occupy a record 209,000 hectares,
      a 36 percent increase from 2013.

      Today more than half of the provinces in Afghanistan are growing opium poppies. Afghanistan is responsible for production of around 80% of the world's opium and heroin.

      Katlego, This is the Bush/Clinton/Bush/ Obama world we live in.
      A Sad Commentary...
      • Apr 15 2014: Barry
        You are absolutely right and to take it a step further, do we ask the question: Is it it the best interest of a government bent on complete societal control to debilitate its citizenry through the use of narcotics?
        I would say yes. Not only do we have the debilitating factor of scores of young and old, but the cost of dealing with this cancer.
        We are legally and with government endorsement and mandate against parental authority prescribing Ritalin to our young males. Ritalin is in the cocaine family of drugs with dependence and even addiction more than possible. This is quite another topic and cannot be fully addressed without a full focus.
        It is interesting that the Federal government has seen fit to ban and remove cigarette smoking in movies and on television, which it takes credit for, but yet is impotent. citing the First Amendment when it comes to narcotic use and its glorification.
        As a former police officer in S. California and as a father and grandfather I would much rather see someone with a cigarette in their hand than a joint, a line or a crack pipe. In my 70 years I have never seen anyone commit a crime due to the influence of nicotine.
      • Apr 15 2014: Frank, I get the fact that we have a role to play in our own economic growth, but let us not be oblivious to the physiological role colonialism and aparthied played to my people.
        Practical example when you speak to a common black man ,rich or poor, he refers to his boss as "lekgowa laka" when you directly translate that it means "my white man".
        the thought patterns of a common black man in South Africa, as a matter a fact world wide , is that a white man is far more superior to the black man. this is what my people have been trained to think for the passed century. So to cut a long story short. Yes even the more smarter, successful of our people would make choices which are not for the greater good but for their own well-being, which is a eurocentric way of think mind you.

        Granted alot of the illegal drugs are very dangerous and yes they kill people on a regular.
        But lets talk about canibus. Pain killlers are more harmful than weed and yet you can buy them at at a petrol station. Why is it that weed is illegal? Do you know how well Africa as a whole would be doing if it was legal? maybe its just me but I smell a rat...
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    Apr 9 2014: One only has to examine all those in the entertainment industry or corporate world - just two of the most prolific drug markets - to see that the vast majority of "users" function just fine throughout their lives and experience no more life or health issues related to the drugs than those who drink, have poor dietary habits or do not exercise.

    In fact, the addicts and the indigent populations that are always thrown in the public's face as an intimidation method are just a small percentage of those who actually consume the illicit drugs. Nor is that population worth the billions of tax dollars wasted criminalizing them, especially when we know that there are far more corporate and entertainment personalities - who do you think has the billions that the gov tells us is spent od drugs? - who freely indulge in the privacy of their yachts, estates and jets.

    In other words, the drugs are illicit because other markets have been created as spinoffs, namely all the policing, jailing, imprisoning, paroling and prosecuting of that minority population and which also produces billions of dollars in profits for those involved. Profits that are equal to and probably greater than the illicit drugs themselves. In other words, the U.S. - where the vast majority of this drug interdiction nonsense originates is all about markets, not common sense or logic.
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    Apr 8 2014: Isn't "advertising," or marketing, a secondary issue here? One hardly needs to advertise a product that sells itself. Word of mouth is the best recommendation for any product.
    Similarly, the advertising claims made against drugs like marijuana overstated, even exaggerated, not to mention poor public policy.

    But here's the real problem with this question: there's no proof, not one shred of evidence presented here, of product placement. The statement ".. if illegal drugs are being deliberately marketed through movies" is completely suggested and unsupported.

    Why not ask how these drug organization transfer hundreds of millions of dollars all around the global?
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      Apr 9 2014: I agree that there is no proof, it is just a suspicion, that drug cartels market their products.

      However it is the central not a secondary issue in my question - there can be a lot of viewpoints and questions on most topics - but this is the one I am asking about.

      Personally I feel that many people assume unquestioningly that illegal drugs sell themselves. Just as, I guess, that most of us prefer to think that we buy the products we buy because of our own choices, not because we are being marketed to.
      • Apr 11 2014: It's a lunatic conspiracy theory.
      • May 2 2014: I agree with Seamus that illegal drugs are being marketed. Drug do largely sell themselves because most of them are addictive. But, why would the cartel simply sit back and rely on that fact? Cigarettes sell themselves and are addictive as well and they advertise like crazy. Cigarette companies just have more obvious forms of advertisement because it is available to them. It makes logical sense for cartels to advertise their product to try to reach as many people as possible. It also makes logical sense for organizations such as the movie industry to include these advertisements because it increases their profits. Even if there are skeptics, lets just assume for right now that the cartel is actively advertising. What can be done to make it harder for them. Do we simply make a law saying no illegal drugs can be used in a movie plot? This would most likely be rejected because it infringes on certain freedoms and limits story telling. Perhaps drug references should effect what a movie is rated (I'm not sure if this already exists). For example, if a movie makes any drug reference what-so-ever it must be given an R rating. This would at least help limit the age of the viewer being exposed to the advertising. Of course, it could have the opposite effect by making it more desirable to use in a film.
  • Apr 8 2014: Wow, what a convoluted comparison! Too bad its all wrong.

    Humans desire escapism. Drugs provide that. No 'Marketing' is needed.

    Look at smoking in older movies/tv versus today. No huge decrease in smoking occurred solely due to removal. Rather it was part of an all-front offensive from the medical community, media and government. Even so less than half of the problem was eliminated.

    Drugs were taboo in film until recently. You're looking at too small a timeframe, basically a 1950-to-today mindset. What kind of 'product placement' did the British use prior to the Opium Wars? They had no film industry to conspire with.

    But to answer your question: What can we do? We can legalize and tax the less dehibilitating drugs, remove the stigma of drug use and rehabilitate those who go too far. But cartels and Hollywood conspiring to increase drug profits? What have YOU been smoking?
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      Apr 9 2014: The tobacco industry responded to bans on TV advertising by moving to product placement in movies. Product placement ads were one of the first uses for motion pictures, so that move is hardly surprising.

      There was a time when narcotics were advertised in newspapers - there was no film then industry full stop.

      I am not suggesting some grand conspiracy, but I find it truly strange that people believe that illegal drugs are not marketed.

      'Marketing' is needed for customers to know that any product exists, how and why you use it and how you get it.
      • Apr 11 2014: When narcotics were advertised in newspapers, narcotics were also LEGAL. Oops, sorry to expose your utter ignorance of history.
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    Apr 8 2014: Seamus,
    You sound like a marketing major in one of those fine Irish Universities. The advertisement for the marketing of any illegal product is mostly done indirectly such as word of mouth. It can be said that illegal drugs are marketed by movies.. I am not sure marketing is a good a reference as is product exposure, but I am not that advanced in marketing.
    So can we do anything about marketing illegal.... anything? That is the 64 dollar question (an American expression).
    Better answered by... I don't know and I have never heard of one.
    I guess you can make all illegal things legal and that would simplify the issue. That's about the best I can offer... good luck on the rest,
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      Apr 9 2014: Thanks Mike.

      Maybe if I was marketing major I might have an answer to offer but so far I don't.
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    Apr 8 2014: Seamus, As in most things the responsibility rests with the individual. There are millions of dollars in advertisements for booze, cigrettes, movies, cars, etc ... what I buy, attend, or use is my decision.

    As a child my friend stole a can of beer from his dads stock. We each took a sip and acted drunk. We tried smoking and looking at dirty books ... these were childhood experiences ... we made decisions to not follow those paths. My point is that WE had to experience them ... we were told not to but to a kid that is often a challenge as peer pressure is a big factor.

    When the demand goes away so will the product either good or bad.

    I could tell you stories of actual calls where drugs were involved ... but the druggies would just say it is a scare tactic ... that the "man" is on our butt .... that the moralists are downers and drugs are victimless crimes .... etc .. I can drink and drive ... smoke weed and be fully functional ... shoot up and not affect anyone ... text and drive ... I am smarter than all of you so butt out.

    Most illegal drugs do not need advertisement ... dealers provide "samples" to get people hooked and then sell them all they want .... the younger the better.

    I doubt if the dealers pay the producers to have drugs in the movie ... they probally just provide them with some of their favorite stuff "free".

    For the users I hope that nothing bad happens to you while using ... but the odds are against you. I do not want to respond to your "event" or inform your parents, wives, kids, etc .. your dead and why.

    I do not wish to debate the good or bad of illegal drugs ... so please leave me out of that conversation. Thanks.
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      Apr 9 2014: Thanks Robert. I don't wish to debate the good or bad of illegal drugs either, nor legalization issues, but people seem to want to drag this conversation in that direction.

      What I am asking people to think about seriously is the marketing of illegal drugs.

      The demand for any product can arise for many reasons, but people go to KFC in part because the corporation spends a lot of money making sure we know about their products.

      Providing free samples is just one of many marketing ploys used by many businesses. If drug dealers use that marketing tactic to increase their market why do people find it so hard to accept that they may also use other marketing ploys?
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    Apr 8 2014: i don't know, mate. Illegal drugs in movies are usually presented as being harmful to the person who uses them. You're saying that's an advertisement?
    • Apr 8 2014: Liberals in the USA denounced the live-action 101 Dalmations Movie because it showed Cruelle DeVille smoking. In their tiny, clenched minds, the movie "advocated" tobacco use.
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        Apr 8 2014: so you don't think someone could watch the movie and be a little more inclined to spark up a cig, just by seeing someone do it on the screen, even though she's a villainess? That actually sounds plausible to me.
        • Apr 10 2014: Let's impose TOTAL CENSORSHIP OF ALL POTENTIALLY HARMFUL BEHAVIORS, in that case. Alcoholism kills. Therefore, BAN ALL DEPICTION OF ALCOHOL USE! You going to get behind that one? Promiscuity leads to spread of STDs. Ban all sexuality in movies and TV. The list could go on and on.
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        Apr 10 2014: well, i wouldn't go that far, Bryan. It just seems that Americans are more down with cutting cigarette use and cigarette use freedom. Prohibition failed, and noone tries to control sexuality, but the restrictions on cigarettes have been pretty successful for example in my hometown.
        • Apr 10 2014: First, they came for the cigarettes...
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      Apr 8 2014: I've not done a full study but many movies present illegal drug use as fun, exciting or just plain normal, and yes I am saying that my guess is that some of that is paid for product placement.
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        Apr 8 2014: hmm, can you name some, seamus? Offhand I would say that most I watch present it as something that harms, often very strongly, the person who does it.

        how do you imagine it gets paid, a criminal drug dealer contacts a screenwriter and says if you show people sniffing cocaine I'll give you a thousand bucks? I doubt a criminal even has to do that, it seems like the stories connected to drug use are interesting enough that screenwriters are going to use them without being paid? But if what you were saying was true, wouldn't the police occasionally catch screenwriters doing this and arrest them? I've not heard of that happening and I imagine if it did it would be big news.

        If you were a screenwriter, you could write a script about a screenwriter who gets paid by criminals to feature drugs in his script.
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          Apr 9 2014: I do not want to accuse any individual of criminal activity but there are plenty of movies in which illegal drug use is presented in ways other than that they cause harm.

          The movie which prompted me to ask the question is The Wolf of Wall Street. Not because of it's portrayal of drug use-though I think you could argue that it shows cocaine in a more positive light than other drugs-but because it included a clip of Popeye eating spinach.

          As far as I know the makers of Popeye were not paid to include the reference to spinach, but those cartoons boosted spinach sales.

          Do I believe that criminals would be prepared to bribe people to promote their products? Absolutely yes. Drug cartels are multinational businesses and I think they do have very large budgets to promote their products. They use those budgets to give out free samples to potential customers and market influencers. So why would they not use some of the money to pay for product placement?

          I agree that some drug related stories are so interesting that screenwriters are drawn to them, The Wolf of Wall Street is that kind of story. But what about the joint smoking sequence in 'Something about Mary'? To me it appears to be out of the context of the story.

          As for the idea of a script where a movie writer gets paid to feature drugs well.. 'Get Shorty' features a film producer who launders drug money to pay for his movies.
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        Apr 9 2014: well, again, Seamus, how are you envisioning that the illegal drug industry is currently paying people to promote illegal drug use in movies? Do you imagine criminals are paying screenwriters to write scripts about illegal drugs, or what?
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          Apr 9 2014: Well a lot of people influence what goes into movies, not just screenwriters.

          Executives choose story types and themes. Producers decide which stories they want to make. Writers write and Directors call the shots. But many other people including actors, DOP's and editors contribute to the version of the story we see on our screens.

          Payments can be made in many ways from "free" stuff, as Robert suggests, to hard cash.
        • Apr 17 2014: Indeed, the tin-foil hattery is STRONG with Mr. McGrenery.
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        Apr 10 2014: seamus, if you're right, don't you think that occasionally someone would have been caught doing that, I'm sure it would be some kind of crime. And yet I haven't heard of anyone getting caught doing that, have you?
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          Apr 10 2014: I don't know if it is a crime, and I have not heard of anyone getting caught product placing illegal drugs in movies.

          Though I am aware of people who have been found trying to product place ordinary commercial products in TV programs without the knowledge or consent of the broadcaster.
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        Apr 10 2014: well, unfortunately i haven't seen "Wolf of Wall Street" or "Something about Mary," Seamus. Do you care to name some more, if there's one we've both seen I would like to see if I agree with you that drug use is presented as normal, exciting, or fun.

        I would say that Seth Rogen's movies show a lot of marijuana use. I guess Seth makes no secret that he uses marijuana and enjoys it. Maybe that could be a reason for a screenwriter to present illegal drugs in a somewhat attractive light, if they use the drugs and actually enjoy them? So you would criticize Seth, you would say he's wrong to show all that marijuana use, or even to use it himself?
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          Apr 14 2014: My point is this.

          Nearly as many movies feature illegal drug use as do regular smoking. We know that the tobacco industry pays to have their products placed in movies, so:

          1. It seems to me a reasonable assumption that some of the illegal drug representation in movies is also paid product placement. Though I note that most people here seem to believe that it is possible to have a multi-billion dollar international consumer industry without advertising.

          2.We limit the advertising of cigarettes and alcohol because most people accept that these products can do harm.

          So I ask is there anything we can do to limit the advertising of illegal drugs? And let me go out on a limb here and say WITHOUT banning everything and killing everyone (as Bryan seems to think I want)
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        Apr 19 2014: thing is, Seamus, if a movie made drug use look too good, people would start demonstrating and protesting at theaters showing the movie, they would boycott the theater, theater owners would refuse to show it because they don't want to be boycotted, and so on. Therefore I don't think there is any movie that makes drug use look that good.

        You've only named two movies so far that might support your idea. But you know, thousands of movies get released every year. If you can only name two movies that might support your idea, that's very little support for your idea.
  • Apr 8 2014: All natural drugs should be legal for adults to consume safely. In my opinion, McDonalds, pharmaceutical drugs, etc... Are far more dangerous than what currently illegal drugs are (although the illegality of drugs makes them more dangerous). Heart disease, strokes, cancer are all results of legal product consumption and the deaths as a result are many more than those from illegal product consumption.

    Imagine the amount of tax payers money saved if the police stopped chasing people and locking up people for victimless crimes such as dealing cannabis. Imagine the amount of money saved on hospital care if people had safe, sterile provisions for cosuming drugs. And imagine the number of natural cures that exist among currently illegal natural drugs. Hemp oil cures many diseases and helps ileviate the symptoms of many more.

    Pharmaceutical companies are laughing all the way to the bank with the naivity of the world public not protesting for the legalisation of natural drugs.

    You make very good points regards the marketing aspect. Marketing of drugs is for two reasons, to increase sales and consumption and as a method of rebellion against governments.
    There are massive drug lords that have made their fortunes and many probably exist within our government and police force. I truly beleive that many drugs taken of dealers are resold by the police back to the drug lords and dealers.

    Like you say, its big business for some.
    • Apr 8 2014: Pharmaceutical drugs are "dangerous"? Okay, so you promise to NEVER USE ANTIBIOTICS, no matter what.
      • Apr 8 2014: I said pharmaceutical drugs were more dangerous than illegal (narural) drugs. I did not say they did not have their place. Although I would say that if some natural drugs were legalised, antibiotics would not be as necessary, as antibiotics exist naturally in Cannabis Sativa, and does not provide the same dangerous side affects as the artificial pharmaceutical type.

        There is a natural drug for every pharmaceutical drug. But there is no profit in a plant(s) that cannot be patented.

        Personally I try my absolute best to avoid all pharmaceutical drugs including antibiotics, especially if there is a natural alternative (which there is).
        • Apr 8 2014: That's an interesting point Mint. Antibiotics themselves might not be as good idea as we thought. We use them to cure everything and bacteria adapt to them quickly. Eventually we will run out of new varietys, and we will be stuck with no developed immunity and nothing to stop infection. This could potentially lead to millions of deaths as antibiotics become ineffective. The strange thing is we knew from the start that this was a short term solution to an extremely long term problem. We seem to be in a rush to discover new antibiotics, when what we should really be concentrating on is finding another way to control infection. This draws many parallels to the way we are handling (or rather not handling) global warming around the world. You have your deniers, your environmentalists, and your politicians making empty promises. P.S this is my first post, so I hope I've gotten my point across without offending to many people ;)
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      Apr 8 2014: It is big business for some.

      Check out these talks:

      Expressing rebellion, independence, fun and excitement are just part of the marketing pitch for illegal drugs.

      Many people claim that dealing cannabis is a victimless crime. Yet the real crime, carried out by drug cartels, with real victims would not be happening if there was not a market for their products.
      • Apr 8 2014: I agree it is big business.

        And i would also say if drugs were legalised the underground drug world/drug cartels would not exist to the same degree and the whole process of drug creation to consumer would be as victimless as any other market.

        Keeping drugs illegal, especially that of cannabis creates victims and criminals and wastes tax payers money. But there are so many covert reasons why our governments keep them illegal.