COVID-19 is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation.

Get the latest information from CDC ( | NIH Resources | NIDA Resources

Drugs & Health Blog

Colorado’s Answer to Marijuana’s Makeover

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.

Source: Don't Be A Lab Rat, a campaign sponsored by the State of Colorado.

The NIDA Blog Team

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?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


I strongly believe that advertising campaigns can be highly beneficial for teens, although with these advertisements must come the truth and only the truth. Nothing must be over or under exaggerated even one bit. The advertisements should aslo be well explained in detail and in a formal manner.
I agree, we shouldn't hide the truth, and we definitely shouldn't over exaggerate the truth. I believe that marijuana is a much better alternative to tobacco, since tobacco is often combine with nicotine. In the teen brain any drug has a higher chance to do damage, we shouldn't tell teens that can never do drugs, but explain to them the actual dangers with scientific fact, and explain to them it is especially dangerous in their teen years. If they choose to use legal drugs in their adult years that choice should be to them then, but they should still be accurately informed about what drug they will be using.
I think that advertising campaigns will help teens realize that medical marijuana is safe for patients subscribed to it. Marijuana otherwise is harmful to them and can cause many problems in the long run. Just because marijuana is being used by doctors doesn't make the marijuana they get less harmful.
Are you crazy??? Locking someone in a cage. "To show harmful effects" who's idea was this does it cause schizophrenia... really, it's a genetic disorder.
I have a friend who is 17 and his mother is bp. He suffers extreme anxiety and feels only weed can help him control his anxiety and his explosive temper. comments please.
Those who were raised in the reefer madness Era all have the outlook of how bad pot is.... how many people have died directly drop smoking it? Now how many have died from cigarette s or alcohol? Yet the last 2 are legal in all states. Yet a plant wich helps with cancer , nerve , pain and others 8 not legal.... big industry has people believing g pot is bad..... the hemp plant it self is a gift from god. Wake up people