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Australia’s “Stoner Sloth” Anti-Cannabis Campaign Delights Instead of Deters

Published on December 21, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Australia has been making swift progress in reforming its medical marijuana policy, having recently approved trials in New South Wales and Victoria for medical cannabis and cultivation. With the spotlight shining on legalization, anti-cannabis campaigns Down Under have found themselves busy coming up with effective messaging that can resonate with Australia's youth. After presumably asking themselves, "What are fellow kids into these days?", Australia's New South Wales government came up with a winning combination of Tumblr, Facebook, and a "Stoner Sloth" designed to communicate the message to minors that "You're worse on weed."

The #StonerSloth Tumblr page currently contains a series of gifs and videos depicting a human-sized sloth in various situations:

  • At a party unable to comment beyond mournful Chewbacca grunts on his friend making fun of a girl for trying to wear socks and sandals out in public;
  • In a classroom unable to finish a test on time because she was presumably too stoned to even start the test and could only muster a series of mournful Chewbacca grunts;
  • At the dinner table dressed like Teen Wolf (and yes, grunting like a mournful Chewbacca) while slowly passing a bowl of salad to his mom, who asked for salt, while his father stares at him with a "I don't even know how I managed to sire a sloth that's larger than I am — how have I never questioned his paternity until now?" look on his face.

Unsurprisingly, Australian teenagers aren't taking the campaign seriously, and neither is the general public, for that matter. People have turned to social media to dub the campaign "unreasonably funny" and "a joke that the government spent taxpayer money on this." A "Pass the Salt" t-shirt has already been printed to rally behind the Stoner Sloth, and the #StonerSloth hashtag has been overtaken by people making fun of the entire campaign.

I'm all for educating minors on cannabis, but even Colorado learned the hard way that campaigns like its "Don't Be a Lab Rat" effort come across as fear-mongering propaganda instead of reasonable messaging. Colorado, having learned from its mistakes, shifted to a more approachable "What's Next?" campaign designed to educate teenagers that their brains don't fully develop until they're 25, and that cannabis use can keep them from achieving their full potential as they enter adulthood.

As for whether the New South Wales government will stick with the #StonerSloth campaign or ditch the slowpoke for something a little less ridiculous, so far the Department of Premier and Cabinet is doubling down on the multi-toed marijuana prevention program. A rep for the department issued a statement:

"The 'Stoner Sloth' public awareness campaign has been designed to encourage positive behaviors in young people before bad habits start, and motivate discontinued use of cannabis before they become dependent. The campaign is designed to appeal to, and be 'shareable' among, teenagers, who are some of the most vulnerable to cannabis use. We know that younger audiences respond more to campaigns highlighting the short-term consequences of their actions."

Perhaps NSW should take a cue from Miss Universe Australia, who cracked the top five of this year's Miss Universe competition and surprised the audience by addressing a question about legalization with refreshing (albeit slightly awkward) candor, saying:

"This topic has both positive and negatives and it's quite debated. I believe that, in certain circumstances, legalizing marijuana does have definite benefits. It has been found to be really amazing in treating cancer, and has really really helped those very, very sick. So in that circumstance, I definitely do think yes, we should, but the government should definitely weigh both options."

Her response elicited cheers from the audience, while host Steve Harvey, presumably preoccupied with figuring out how to ruin the competition for the winner and runner-up, remained silent.

Watch Miss Universe Australia's full response below:

What do you think of Australia's #StonerSloth anti-cannabis campaign?

Image Source: Stoner Sloth

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Rebecca Kelley
Rebecca Kelley
Rebecca is the Content Director at Leafly, where she oversees Leafly News production and other content projects.
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