Colorado's anti-pot 'lab rat' campaign hits snag

August 26, 2014 - 1:04 PM

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — A provocative anti-marijuana campaign aimed at Colorado youths has angered marijuana activists for its tag line, "Don't Be a Lab Rat." Now a Colorado school system is declining to display a human-size cage used in the campaign.

The Boulder Valley School District says it won't participate in the campaign, The Daily Camera reports (http://bit.ly/1vIqG6T). Recreational pot sales to those 21 and older in Colorado became legal this year.

"We had concerns about the use of human-scale rat cages being an effective tool for getting 12-to-15-year-olds to understand the risks involved with their developing brains," school district spokesman Briggs Gamblin said.

Superintendent Bruce Messinger emailed all district principals before the launch of the cages in Denver, informing them that the school district administration would formally oppose "Don't Be a Lab Rat" on the grounds that "a human scale 'rat cage'" may not be the most effective prop for the campaign's message.

Instead, the cage will be displayed near a city park through Sept. 15.

The "Lab Rat" display, targeted at 12-to-15-year-olds, is part of the state's public education campaign about pot's potential to harm a developing brain.

The campaign is paid for by a state pharmaceutical settlement fund that raises awareness for substance abuse.

"Schizophrenia. Permanent IQ loss. Stunted brain growth," the campaign's website reads. "Still, some people question this research. Claiming the studies need to go deeper. Look further. But who will be their guinea pigs? Who's going to risk their brains to find out once and for all what marijuana really does?"

The 12-foot-long, 8-foot-high cage attracted vandals and jeers when it was outside a public library and skate park.

The campaign comes to Boulder after a run at two different Denver locations, the public library and the downtown skate park.

One man even smoked pot inside the cage and posted the picture on social media sites.

Dr. Larry Wolk, who runs the state health department, told the KCNC-TV in Denver, "at least they're taking notice."

Boulder's Shawn Coleman, a marijuana industry lobbyist, said the campaign suggested pot use could usher someone behind bars.

"The first thing that happens is you see the illusion that cannabis use equals cage. So using marijuana equals jail," he said.

Gamblin said the school district simply worried about how students would take the campaign.

"I think the intent came from a really positive place," Gamblin said. "But we just are not convinced that students would perceive it that way."

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Information from: Daily Camera, http://www.dailycamera.com/