Stoner Sloths and Teenage Marijuana Use

W have previously written about the devolution of anti-cannabis rhetoric, but the cannabis opposition recently took even us aback. Queue the Stoner Sloth, star of a video series portraying the “horrors” of marijuana use by teens. The Sloth muddles through various real life situations made markedly harder by being stoned. The campaign’s catchy tagline is “You’re Worse on Weed.” This ad campaign comes from Australia, where the possession and consumption of marijuana are prohibited.

The Stoner Sloth campaign has gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons. The headlines of the following articles illustrate how this campaign has been received:

The video series is so bad that it has become somewhat of a campy cult classic, with the Stoner Sloth having emerged as an ironic “anti-hero,” embraced by marijuana advocates as a welcome mascot. This is assuredly not what the Australian government officials had in mind when dreaming up the Stoner Sloth, but they always say there is no such thing as bad press.

The Australian ad campaign coincides with the result of a US study tracking marijuana use among teens. According to the Washington Post, federal data found no change in teenage cannabis use in nearly every US state compared to last year, though it did find a slight increase in teen use in Washington and Colorado, the states that recently fully legalized recreational marijuana. In Colorado, the numbers jumped from 11.2 percent in 2012-13 to 12.6 percent in 2013-14. In Washington, the monthly teen marijuana use rate rose from 9.8 percent to 10.1 percent.

Prominent legalization opponent Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana points out that now Colorado leads the nation in monthly adolescent marijuana use, and he uses that fact to show the dangers of legalization. But, public health expert Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University counters that the latest numbers are not particularly suggestive one way or another and that these initial numbers are not suitable for judging the effect of legalization. Another study from American Law and Economics Review stated the following:

 Although policymakers and law enforcement officials argue that medical marijuana laws (MMLs) “send the wrong message” to young people, previous studies have produced no evidence of a causal relationship between MMLs and marijuana use among teens. . . . Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that legalization of medical marijuana leads to increased marijuana use among teenagers.

The fight for marijuana legalization is winning the public opinion wars. According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana. This ties a high-point in favor of legalization since Gallup started tracking this data in 1969. Ad campaigns like the “Stoner Sloth” are the feeble gasps of a diminishing subset who still favor prohibiting cannabis. Here’s to hoping they remain so lame in their efforts.