Rachael Leigh Cook Remakes Her Iconic Anti-Drug PSA To Make A Powerful Point

"The war on drugs is ruining people’s lives."

Actress Rachael Leigh Cook's iconic "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" PSA from 1997 has gotten a modern makeover that highlights how drugs are especially devastating to those in minority communities. 

In the original PSA, below, Cook holds up an egg meant to represent your brain, and proceeds to bash it with a frying pan, AKA heroin, to show the negative effects the harmful drug can have on every aspect of your life.That commercial was named by TV Guide as one of the top one hundred television advertisements of all time, and was even parodied on Saturday Night Live following its national release.

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The updated version of PSA, released on 4/20, teams Cook with the Drug Policy Alliance and focuses more on the harmful effects of the war on drugs, as opposed to the drugs themselves. "Rachael Leigh Cook, her frying pan and eggs are back but this time in a new ad that slams the drug war and its racist enforcement," Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement.

The new PSA opens with the actress, now 37, holding up a white egg meant to represent "one of the millions of Americans who uses drugs and won't get arrested." She places that egg safely back in the pan and then picks up a brown egg. 

"This American is several times more likely to be charged with a drug crime," Cook explains as the commercial transitions into a cartoon showing the brown egg's subsequent incarceration and lifelong difficulties thereafter.

The brown egg, unable to get a job or go to college, gets smashed by the pan, while the white egg remains unscathed and unaffected by drug use. 

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"The war on drugs is ruining people's lives," Cook concludes. "It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counterparts. It cripples communities. It costs billions and it doesn't work. Any questions?"

Adds Tony Newman, "The war on drugs is a disastrous failure that has ruined millions of peoples' lives, especially people of color. Let's hope this ad is seen by as many people as the original and inspires folks to end this unwinnable war."

Sure, the PSA is dramatized, but it's based on fact. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, 57 percent of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prison are black or Latino, despite the fact that these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites. What's more? Over 200,000 students have lost federal financial aid eligibility because of a drug conviction, and most were not white.

In 2015, while speaking at the NAACP's annual national convention, former president Barack Obama identified three key areas in which reform was necessary to address the racial imbalance in drug-related imprisonment: the community, the courtroom, and the cell block. His argument, essentially, was that by implementing common sense changes in these areas (like investing in education and in community-police relationships and decreasing minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes), we could both address mass incarceration and stabilize communities.

"Any system that allows us to turn a blind eye to hopelessness and despair, that's not a justice system, it is an injustice system," Obama said, to applause from the audience. "But that is an extension and a reflection of some broader decisions that we're making as a society.  And that has to change. That has to change."

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