Aviva Shen writes:
In what is perhaps Nancy Reagan’s most well-known cultural contribution, the First Lady stared gravely into the camera and told the American people to “Just Say No.” “Our job is never easy because drug criminals are ingenious,” she said in the 1984 address. “They work everyday to plot a new and better way to steal our children’s lives, just as they’ve done by developing this new drug, crack. For every door that we close, they open a new door to death.” And then the famous line: “Say yes to your life. And when it comes to drugs and alcohol just say no.”...
Instead of convincing kids not to use drugs, the hysteria around drug use by young people helped create some of the most destructive mechanisms of mass incarceration.
Fears of children getting addicted to drugs gave rise to the school-to-prison pipeline. Shortly after the First Lady launched her Just Say No campaign, Congress passed the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act in 1986, mandating zero tolerance for any drugs or alcohol found on public school grounds. That brought police officers into schools. Those police officers then started arresting students not only for drug possession but also for minor school code infractions, such as throwing Skittles or violating the dress code.