The intensity of the drug debate is reflected in President George Bush's recent promise to lead a more aggressive campaign against substance abuse, ordering that resources be allocated to fighting so-called 'soft' drugs instead of concentrating on harder forms, such as marijuana and cocaine. At the center of the debate over marijuana is the issue of its legality, the main differences concerning its hazards, both to the health of an individual user and to society. A key contributor to the Bush administration's efforts to keep marijuana illegal is the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The ONDCP website's emphasis on marijuana's harmful social and healthful effects confirms that the very nature of the drug debate relies on the establishment of a cause and effect relationship, an argument that should be solved with empirical data. The stated goals of the ONDCP are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.
An analysis of the rhetorical appeals used in the ONDCP website link on marijuana reveals that the White House policy on marijuana is not based on legitimate rhetorical appeals, and that the primary rhetorical aim of the ONDCP is not to persuade an audience of the illegality of marijuana, but rather to spin a political justification for the White House's war on drugs.
The ability of the ONDCP website to succeed in persuading its audience must be measured by the audience to which it is directing those appeals. Individuals most likely to log on to the ONDCP website are looking for uncomplicated, factual information. They do not want to sift through pages of scientific or technical data, most of which is not easily understood by a layman, and are depending on someone else to make sense of that data.