$2M anti-pot campaign warns of becoming ‘lab rat’

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DENVER (AP) – A campaign to discourage Colorado youths from using marijuana titled “Don’t Be a Lab Rat” will use human-sized rat cages and television and movie-theater ads, with the goal of telling teens there’s uncertainty surrounding the effects of pot.


The campaign launching Monday moves away from trying to scare teens like some anti-meth commercials, The Denver Post reports. The $2 million campaign was commissioned by the governor’s office and uses money from legal settlements with various pharmaceutical companies.


A handful of rat cages will be displayed throughout Denver with campaign messaging, including one calling for volunteers for a lab experiment.


“Volunteers needed,” one of the messages will read. “Must have a developing brain. Must smoke weed. Must not be concerned about schizophrenia.”


One of the television and theater commercials will show teens lighting up in a smoke-filled car, with text on the screen referencing a Duke University study that argues teenage pot use results in lasting drops in IQ.


Teens will also be directed to a website, DontBeALabRat.com, to read studies on the possible consequences of pot use.


“We don’t say, ‘It’s absolute’; we say, ‘This study exists. Some people dispute that. Make up your own mind,”’ said Mike Sukle, who created the campaign. “At some point, they have to make up their mind. The days of ‘Just Say No,’ that was a fairly failed effort.”


Sukle has previously worked on anti-meth campaigns designed to shock teenagers to try to prevent them from using the drugs. But with acceptance of marijuana use increasing, the challenge for the campaign was bigger.


“This was a tricky one,” Sukle said.


He said his team pitched possible messages to teens, such as telling them marijuana could cost them a scholarship or get them in trouble. But Sukle said the message that stuck was one that addressed the teens’ sense of self, and what bothered them was being told about research suggesting marijuana could affect their brain development.


Mason Tvert, a marijuana activist who helped lead the legalization effort in Colorado, is skeptical of the ad campaign and said that it’s designed to scare like past anti-drug efforts.


“What it comes down to is are the ads intended to scare them or are the ads intended to inform them?” he said. “These ads are intended to scare them.”


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