The Just Say No campaign led to the emergence of initiatives such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education otherwise known as D.A.R.E, and other teen programs as more parents became distressed about their children getting into drugs. D.A.R.E. even adopted the Just Say No slogan as its mantra. Academic institutions all over America also adopted the campaign in effort to reduce drug use in schools.
The Just Say No Campaign against drug use also led to the dehumanization of the drug addict, which brought about the misconception that drug addicts should be put in jail because they are bad people, who made poor choices. Not realizing that it was not some moral failing or choice but rather an illness that emerged from social, environmental, and biological factors. This then influenced how Americans viewed drug abuse, encasing the rising problem as a minority issue.
The Just Say No campaign also heavily influenced how America viewed drugs by spreading fear and ignorance instead of information. It managed to influence policies that would give drug offenders harsher sentences that would eventually lead to America having the largest prison population in the world. “The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997.”
The Campaign influenced national policies, with Congress passing the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act in 1986, “mandating zero tolerance for any drugs or alcohol found on public school grounds.” [footnoteRef:5] This Act brought police officers into schools, who then started arresting students not only for drug possession but also for minor school code infractions. This led to panic as many parents feared that their children would be unjustly sent to prison. [5: Think Progress, “The Disastrous Legacy of Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ Campaign”, Mar 6, 2016, 9:45 pm
The forceful implementation of the Act also had a huge cultural impact that caused Black, and Latino kids to get targeted and arrested at their schools for small drug infractions. This made it harder for them to get jobs and enroll in higher education. Consequently, it reignited racial prejudice and racism in America’s educational institutions.
The Just Say No movement influenced the implementation of zero tolerance policies, that would give mandatory sentences for small possessions of drugs, escalating mass incarceration. The founder of D.A.R.E, and a Los Angeles Police Chief, Daryl Gates, even said that “casual drug users should be taken out and shot.”
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