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Los Angeles County Drops Rap Videos on Social Media to Keep Teens Off Weed

Harkening back to the days of “Just Say No," L.A.’s latest effort to keep kids off marijuana targets a new generation of high schoolers.

by Zach Harris

Image via Let's Talk Cannabis LA County

With legal cannabis on sale in California since the start of the year, a new series of public service announcements in Los Angeles County is attempting to inspire teens to keep off kush with a catchy beat and prominent placement in social media feeds.

According to the Washington Post, Los Angeles’ “#BiggerChoices” campaign launched Thursday with two 30-second music videos released as sponsored social media posts, aimed at Southland teenagers’ news feeds on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

In the PSAs, #BiggerChoices sets the scene at a classic high school house party, complete with red cups, Fashion Nova outfits, and of course, tons of weed. As various revelers lay down Lin-Manuel Miranda-style rhymes about their affinity for weed, three partiers (in all white) deliver anti-pot responses to every potential excuse to partake.

“But everyone is sparking up and girls will think I’m fly,” one teen raps before being interrupted by the angelic anti-pot squad. “Girls won’t think you’re fly if your bank account is dry.”

At the end of both videos, the white-clad teen crew presents the campaign’s tagline before crossing their arms and standing back to back: “You can’t use your brain if you’re always getting high.”

Parents, educators, and government officials have targeted teens for decades with anti-drug propaganda, and the #BiggerChoices campaign appears to be no different. From “The Weed”  and DARE, to Rachael Leigh Cook’s famous “This is your brain on drugs” ad, to talking dogs, melting teens, and countless others, public officials have generally missed the mark when it comes to youth-focused anti-drug messaging.

Early studies have claimed negative effects on the developing brain from cannabis, and legalization laws across the U.S. have unanimously agreed on the age limit of 21 years old to discourage teen use, but without sufficient research into marijuana’s effects on the body in general, any causal claims about teen weed use are speculative at best.

By focusing on social media posts instead of TV ads, and showing real teens channeling a trap-style beat, L.A. County is hoping to reach teens at their own level.

But with pop culture — and rap music specifically — currently rocketing teenagers and twenty-somethings to the heights of the music industry, weed references and all, it seems unlikely that the bureaucrat-constructed attempt at reaching teens will actually be effective in watering down the pro-pot message of groups like Rae Sremmurd and artists like BlocBoy JB, whose signature dance is tearing up high school hallways across the country.

After the campaign’s first videos dropped yesterday, a quick search of social media found that on both Instagram and Twitter, the only posts linked to #BiggerChoices were those made by L.A. County government officials and other people directly responsible for the ads.

Poking fun at the concept of weed PSAs compared to the prevalence of pharmaceutical ads on American television, Oregon weed delivery company Briteside released a tongue-in-cheek pro-pot PSA last year made in the style of a traditional big-pharma commercial.

In the years since U.S. states began legalizing cannabis for adult-use, studies have reported consistently low levels of teen use, despite constant fear-mongering about higher youth consumption from anti-legalization groups.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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