As It Happens

'Brain On Drugs' campaign guy now supports legalizing marijuana

California could legalize recreational marijuana in this year's election, and even John Roselius, the star of a famous 1987 anti-drug PSA, is saying "yes" to Proposition 64.
Actor John Roselius shown in a screen shot from the iconic 1987 "This Is Your Brain On Drugs" anti-drug PSA. Roselius now says he supports marijuana legalization in California. (Youtube)
Proposition 64 will appear on the U.S. election ballot for California voters. If it passes, it would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state. 

John Roselius has already voted "Yes".

You may not know him by name. But, you've likely seen some of the actor's earliest work. Roselius is best known for his role in a 1987 anti-drug public service announcement, in which he makes his point by cracking an egg into a frying pan.

"It's very hard to explain how I felt personally about doing this thing," Roselius tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "I just asked them don't run it past six months — and they ran it for 14 years."

The now iconic television ad was paid for by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The 30 second spot was widely circulated across the United States, parodied on late night television and shown in classrooms to generations of teenagers.

"I think some of them laughed and some of them took it seriously, Roselius admits.

I was aware that I had a drinking problem when I did the ad.- John Roselius

At the time, Roselius says he firmly believed in the message he was sending. He even donated money he made from the ad to a boxing group for youth, which he helped run for a similar cause.

"We bought our own ring," Roselius recalls. "We worked with the kids and tried to get in the schools — to keep kids out of gangs and avoid drugs."

For the second time in six years, California voters are being asked to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Polls show Proposition 64 with more than the 50 percent of voter support needed to pass. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

​Roselius felt the government drug programs were failing and "horribly run and misread." In addition to acting, he also worked with inmates at San Quentin State Prison."There's more drugs in the prison than there are in the streets so you learn a lot about it," Roselius explains. Furthermore, he was also dealing with his own addictions.

"I was aware that I had a drinking problem when I did the ad," Roselius admits.


Roselius has now been sober for the past 28 years. He is still uncomfortable with being known as the "Drug Guy" and questions whether the ad was effective. He says he has first hand knowledge of the scourge of drug addiction but thinks it's important to differentiate between medical marijuana and harder opioid based drugs.

He credits his in-laws, who voted to legalize medicinal marijuana in the state of Washington, with influencing his decision to support legalization.

"They were in their late '80s and my mother in-law, god rest her soul, had pretty bad arthritis and a lot of pain. My father in-law had a lot of pain in his legs. They didn't want to use opioids and they went with the marijuana," Roselius explains.

"I think that kind of directed me and when they legalized it for medicinal purposes that changed me." 

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with John Roselius.


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