Moral Panic

Missourians Freak Out Over Cheeky Fireworks Billboard (Which May Be Driving Up Local Meth Use!)

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Screenshot/KSDK

A billboard in Jefferson County, Missouri, is stirring up local outrage by obliquely referencing the drug Molly. The Highway 30 ad for Molly Brown's Fireworks stand reads in big block letters: MOLLY AHEAD. The fine print between these words says "Black Market." 

It seems pretty obvious that this is a play on words, designed to draw maximum eyeballs and pique passersby's interest—as good advertising does. But local busybodies are concerned that the billboard "sends mixed messages" and helps normalize the idea of drug use. 

"The unfortunate thing about that is many kids will see that, they'll know the relation to the drug Molly and it just builds the idea that this drug is no big deal, that it's ok to take, that it's something we can joke about," Jared Opsal, a spokesman for the St. Louis branch of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, told Missouri news station KSDK.  

Opsal's comment is, amazingly, one of the less insane ones in KSDK's story. The local news account quickly escalates from cheeky fireworks-stand billboard to kids on Molly getting dehydrated to kids are dying to oh my god this billboard could fuel the local heroin and meth epidemics. Ahem: 

Some Molly users have even died.

Fenton and the surrounding communities have been battling drug epidemics for years. It started with methamphetamines. More recently heroin has joined the mix. Now people are concerned the sign may lead to more problems.

"When I see Molly black market, to me that sounds like drugs," said Michele Van Tuyl of the Rockwood Drug Free Coalition.

"You put the fireworks with the drug insinuation and it sounds like a big huge party, you know?" 

A big huge party where everybody gets together and insinuates about drugs—chilling. 

For its part, the company that owns Molly Brown's is denying any insinuation was intended. "Molly's Ahead has absolutely nothing to do with a drug called molly," spokeswoman Anita Kell told a concerned community member in an email. She said she didn't even know molly was a drug and that Black Market is a brand of fireworks. 

I don't buy Kell's explanation—she conveniently adds the possessive in all of her Molly mentions, which is not what the billboard actually says. But it's probably a good strategy with this crowd.