Last week the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment unveiled a new ad campaign aimed at scaring teenagers away from marijuana by warning them that it might damage their brains. Then again, it might not. As the campaign itself intermittently acknowledges, claims that marijuana causes lasting neurological impairment remain controversial. But why take a chance? That is the state's message in a nutshell. Hence the slogan: "Don't be a lab rat."
As anti-drug propaganda goes, writes Jacob Sullum, Colorado's campaign, which was prompted by fears that teenagers will be more inclined to smoke pot now that it's legal for adults, is relatively subtle and restrained. But Sullum says the campaign nevertheless exaggerates the strength of the evidence linking adolescent pot smoking to brain damage as well as the level of risk facing the typical adolescent pot smoker.