The Washington State Department of Health found itself in hot water after posting racially targeted anti-weed billboards in the Yakima area. After a firestorm of social media complaints, the department took them down.
Targeting the Hispanic Community
The anti-weed billboards depicted a group of five Hispanic teenagers. Along the top ran the line: “We don’t need pot to have fun.” Beneath that, in slightly smaller lettering was: “We’re Hispanics…we’re cool by default.”
The billboards showed up in the Yakima area recently. From the sounds of it, there were at least two of these signs posted. Almost immediately, the ad—which for some unexplained reason chose to single out the Hispanic community—began drawing backlash on social media.
On Facebook, users responded with comments like:
OMG THIS IS NOT REAL!! SERIOUSLY!! Let’s divide our cultures some more.
Wtf. Really? No one thought twice about this?”
Ridiculous…Smoking pot doesn’t determine whether you’re ‘cool’ or not…Neither does race. The sign is idiotic.
One of the two anti-weed billboards was posted at the Valley Mall, located in the city of Union Gap. But after seeing all the negative comments, the mall took the sign down. Additionally, the mall released a statement explaining the decision.
“The opinions of our shoppers are of utmost importance to us, so we have decided to remove the signage for the Washington State Department of Health advertising campaign.”
An Anti-Cannabis Campaign
According to local sources, the anti-weed billboards were part of a larger campaign being organized by the Washington Department of Health. Apparently, the effort is aimed at encouraging teenagers and other young people to avoid cannabis. The department has reportedly set aside somewhere around $100,000 for the campaign.
Concerns over teen use of cannabis continue to be a pressing matter, even in states like Washington, where recreational weed is legal. Yet, despite these concerns, studies do not back up the claim that legalization makes it more likely for teens to consume cannabis. In fact, studies have found that legalization does not alter how many teens consume weed.
For example, that’s exactly what the 2016 Monitoring the Future survey found. More specifically, here are some details from the report:
- Cannabis use among eighth graders dropped from 6.5 percent in 2015 to 5.4 percent in 2016.
- Daily consumptino among eighth grader fell from 1.1 percent to 0.7 percent.
- Cannabis use among high seniors remains about the same year to year, regardless of changes to weed laws. More specifically, 22.5 percent of seniors reported consuming cannabis in the previous month. That’s basically the same as it’s been in past years.
One of the conclusions from this, and other similar studies, is that despite whatever claims people make, teen use of weed does not seem to change when it’s legalized.
Final Hit: Racially Targeted Anti-Weed Billboards
Shortly after the social media backlash against the billboards, the other remaining signs were removed. Clearly, the signs did not sit well with the Yakima community. On top of that, there is no statistical evidence that legalization increases teen use.