Boulder Schools Opt Out Of Controversial Rat Cage Anti-Pot Campaign

One of Colorado’s largest school districts is just saying no to an unusual statewide campaign to keep kids from smoking marijuana.

The initiative involves giant rat cages placed in public locations.

The Boulder Valley School District doesn’t want the cages on its property because it’s concerned about the message they send, according to the Boulder Weekly.

“We don’t see human-scale rat cages as something that’s going to be seen as a positive or intelligent way to approach young people,” BVSD spokesman Briggs Gamblin told the paper.

The $2 million campaign also features signs on the cages warning young pot smokers that marijuana use among teens could lead to mental health issues later in life, including highly debated links to schizophrenia. The overall message is that kids shouldn’t experiment with their mental health while the effects of marijuana on developing brains is still being studied.

“[W]ho will be their guinea pigs?” the campaign’s website reads. “Who’s going to risk their brains to find out once and for all what marijuana really does?”

While Boulder’s first rat cage will be installed at a busy intersection on Tuesday, the school district made it clear in an email to parents that it’s not going to allow any of the props or campaign material at any of its schools. For one thing, linking mental health issues with people in cages strikes the school district as somewhat tone-deaf to those who suffer from such illnesses.

“We worry about some of the messages and possible links to schizophrenia and that how they are worded could feed into stereotypes, especially since that is a time when peer approval is so important,” Gamblin told the Weekly. “We do share the view that 12- to 15-year-olds shouldn’t be using marijuana, and it’s not allowed on school property.”

In other comments to the Daily Camera, he added, “This looked like a strategy that feels good for adults, but would not gain the respect of the target audience, of pre-teens and young teens we’re trying to reach.”

In fact, when the cages were first introduced in Denver last week, some were immediately defaced with pro-pot graffiti. During one television station’s visit, a young man used the cage to take a break and smoke a joint. (RELATED: Denver Uses Giant Rat Cages To Curb Teen Pot Use)

Critics also point out that teen marijuana use has fallen 4 percent since 2009, a time when marijuana became increasingly visible through the sudden proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Colorado voters legalized marijuana for adult use in 2012. Retail sales through state-licensed pot shops began in January.

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