5 Most Absurd Anti-Pot Propaganda Campaigns

Last year, Colorado launched the $2 million Don’t Be a Lab Rat campaign. Backed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, this anti-pot campaign was a modern-day Reefer Madness, with human-sized rat cages set up in public places to show the horrors of smoking marijuana. The idea was to relay to teenagers that Colorado was becoming a testing ground for the consequences of marijuana legalization and that they would be the test subjects if they smoked pot.  

Needless to say, this multi-million-dollar propaganda campaign was a flop. Stoners used the installations as a place to light up. The 12-foot cages bore a striking resemble to prison cells. As Shawn Coleman, a lobbyist for the marijuana industry, put it: "One of the reasons the war on drugs is starting to end is because people are tired of black and brown people being thrown in jail for marijuana. These rat cages are the exact same size as a human prison cell.”

In an acknowledgment of this policy failure, Colorado has now green-lit the $5.7 million Good to Know marijuana awareness campaign in order to teach kids how to use marijuana safely and responsibly. 

But America has a long history of using hysterical scare tactics in its anti-drug campaigns. Back in the 1930s, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst used yellow journalism to spread panic about marijuana, linking its use to violent crimes committed by African American reefer addicts.

Today's marijuana scare-tactics are riddled with misinformation—wild attempts to alarm the public even as states and cities across the country are loosening marijuana restrictions. Take my hand, dear reader, as we explore the most idiotic anti-pot ad campaign efforts in recent history.

1. Cookie Date Rape

A Florida ad campaign prophesies that the legalization of medical marijuana will lead right to date rape.

“Will the new face of date rape look like a cookie?"

The question is prominently featured in a new advertising campaign launched on the "No on Issue 2" Twitter page.

The ad shows a man with his arm around a woman; he has a pack of marijuana cookies slyly tucked away in his back pocket. Obviously, there is only one outcome to this scenario. The couple is standing in front a large plate of cookies, or, according to the logic of the campaign, a plate of date rape. The Cookie Monster truly is a monster.

Scare Tactic: Florida residents stricken with cancer, who rely on medical marijuana to ease their symptoms, will spend their hours recovering from vomiting and chemotherapy looking for women to date rape.

2. Brains That Look Like Pot Pipes

Canada, our friendly little buddy to the north, has created an anti-marijuana ad campaign to scare the bejeezus out of Canadian teenagers. The commercial warns viewers that marijuana is “300 to 400 percent stronger than it was 30 years ago.” A disembodied Canadian woman’s voice says, ominously, “Smoking marijuana can seriously harm a teen’s developing brain.” She adds: “Smoking marijuana—it can damage a teen for life.”

The ad relies on creepy images and grave predictions to communicate how dangerous marijuana is, rather than any actual facts. As the 30-second ad comes to an end, a brain appears in the shape of a giant glass pot pipe. Oh, Canada!

Scare Tactic: Beware Canadian parents: Pot will ruin your kids’ lives. If they smoke enough of it, they will likely end up like that middle-aged fry cook at Tim Horton’s.

3. Girl Smokes Pot and Becomes Really Flat

In this ad put out by Above the Influence, some poor girl has smoked pot and now she is literally flat—stretched out as if she’d been run over by a steamroller. She looks like a deflated balloon on a respirator. This is not good. But are the creators of the ad sure they aren’t mistaking marijuana for low-tar heroin? Deflated balloon girl should seek out a strain of cannabis that’s more of a head high rather than a body high—like Purple Indigo.

Scare Tactic: Not only does marijuana make you lethargic, it also turns you into a Muppet.

4. Smoke Weed, Spend a Night In Jail

This ad created by DAREgeneration.com seems to confuse marijuana with high-grade LSD. The copy next to each of these “reefer cigarettes” is like something penned by someone who has learned about drugs from watching old Cheech & Chong movies: "Tried to email Uranus," "Made hat out of ground beef," "Heard my hair grow."

What the heck are they talking about? And why is that big blunt rolled with wrapping paper? 

The copy at the bottom of the ad reads: “Facts: the anti-drug.”

Perhaps one fact this ad campaign should include is the amount of taxpayers’ money wasted on creating this asinine propaganda.

Scare Tactic: It’s all fun and games listening to your hair grow, but a night in jail is just around the corner where all your emailing Uranus privileges will be taken away and guards will confiscate your hat made out of ground beef. 

5. Weed Is a Gateway Drug to Meth

Right off the bat, I can tell marijuana is bad because of the scary music and the fact that the large marijuana plant looks like the star of a Japanese monster movie. There’s even the sound of a beating heart at the end. What we learn from this ad campaign to stop Prop 19 in California is that pot is the gateway drug to coke and meth. Yes, much like alcohol is the gateway drug to coke and meth. Or coffee is the gateway drug to Starbucks Caramel Macchiatos.

Scare Tactic: Messed-up minds. Messed-up lives. Messed-up families. The legalization of marijuana will be the downfall of civilization as we know it! Babies will be getting stoned and our American workers will be getting high on the job while operating heavy machinery.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.