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NIDA. (2014, October 6). Colorado’s Answer to Marijuana’s Makeover. Retrieved from

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The NIDA Blog Team
October 6 2014
Don't be a lab rat campaign graphic - a testing cage shown
Source: Don't Be A Lab Rat, a campaign sponsored by the State of Colorado.

Marijuana has long been seen as an “alternative” drug. It was illegal for everyone, and those who used it regularly were seen as “stoners” or “hippies” or “partiers” and were somehow different than “regular” people. There was a stereotype of people who used marijuana and most people didn’t think much about it.

And then came the rise of medical marijuana, and that began to change marijuana’s reputation. It was seen, by some, as medicine, and in some states people were able to get a prescription for it and use it to help them with specific health problems. Marijuana started to change its image. Now, along with the typical marijuana user, there were people who had medical conditions enabling them to get a prescription and use marijuana legally.

But the biggest change in marijuana’s image is what has happened in two states, Colorado and Washington, where marijuana has been made legal for adults to use, with or without a prescription. This change pushed marijuana out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Marijuana is still not as popular as alcohol or tobacco in those states, but this new identity as a “legal drug” has come with a change in perception that marijuana is safe, and that the reasons it was illegal before no longer exist.

This really worries people who dedicate their lives to the health of the public. That’s especially true when it comes to people who care about teens, whose brains are actively developing and may really be damaged by marijuana use.

Colorado is working to counter the effects of marijuana’s image makeover by constructing human-sized rat cages to raise awareness about the effects of marijuana on young people, getting the point across that using it as a teenager is kind of like doing an experiment on your brain. Thus the campaign’s message: “Don’t be a lab rat” and questions like “Can marijuana really cause schizophrenia in teenagers? Volunteers, anyone?” The cages are displayed in places popular with kids and teens, such as a skate park and the public library.

Tell us in comments: Do you think advertising campaigns can help teens see that marijuana is still dangerous for them to use?