Marijuana Backer Lauds Boulder for Rejecting "Racist" Anti-Pot Cages, Asks Hick to Apologize

Earlier this month, we told you about "Don't Be a Lab Rat," a new campaign aimed at dissuading teens from smoking pot. The multi-media effort, backed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, includes oversized rat cages intended to be displayed in public places throughout the state.

Now, however, the City of Boulder has rejected the displays, and that cheers one cannabis-industry representative, who calls the cages racist and thinks Governor John Hickenlooper should apologize for the campaign. Additional photos and videos below.

See also: Anti-Pot "Don't Be a Lab Rat" Campaign Uses Disputed Facts That Might Be True

Earlier this month, Mike Sukle, founder and creative director for Sukle Advertising & Design, which was hired by the state to come up with the campaign, told us the concept "isn't something we took to the kids. It resulted from talking with them. And the thing that was most important to them was the harm it does to their brain. They were surprised by that. They see their brains as a really important element to who they are and they want to protect that."

Sukle conceded that "the whole science of developing brains and the effects marijuana has is in its infancy. While there's a pretty good set of research, a lot of people dispute it. They don't believe it. So we wanted to be very honest and straight-forward -- to say, 'Here's a study, people dispute it, but do you really want to take that chance? Don't be a lab rat. People are going to be watching you to either prove or disprove these studies.'"

The campaign includes TV public-service announcements and movie-theater spots intended to garner audience participation; see examples below. In addition, the agency created jumbo rat cages for display, with early locations including Red Rocks concerts, the Denver Central Library and the Denver Skatepark.

Folks hanging out at the latter location quickly offered their own comments on the cage placed there. As CBS4 reported, anti-smoking messages on signage was quickly altered with pro-pot statements and at least one person was caught on camera smoking pot inside the bars.

You can view the complete CBS4 report below.

In the meantime, the Boulder Valley School District came out against allowing the rat cages at its properties in an August 24 Boulder Daily Camera article. BVSD spokesman Briggs Gamblin told the paper, "We had concerns about the use of human-scale rat cages being an effective tool for getting twelve-to-fifteen-year-olds to understand the risks involved with their developing brains."

Then, yesterday, the City of Boulder issued a press release whose subject line reads, "Boulder Declines 'Don't Be a Lab Rat' Cage Display." The rationale is described like so: "While the city firmly supports education campaigns to reduce illegal drug use and increase awareness among youth, the city respects the concerns shared by Boulder Valley School District and some members of the community about the use of a human-sized rat cage in the messaging. The city has declined the state's request to erect a cage on public property as part of the campaign."

Shawn Coleman, a lobbyist for the marijuana industry, has problems with the cages, too, and while he applauds the school district and the city for its stance, he uses much less cautious language to describe his objections.

Continue for more about Boulder's rejection of the "Don't Be a Lab Rat" cages, including additional photos and three videos.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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