Critics ridicule NSW government as cannabis awareness campaign backfires

Top research centre distances itself from bizarre 'Stoner Sloth' campaign, which depicts marijuana users as giant bumbling versions of the animal

The 'Stoner Sloth', centre piece of the NSW government's cannabis awareness campaign

The government of New South Wales in Australia is reeling from strong criticism of its campaign to raise teenage awareness of cannabis abuse.

The ‘Stoner Sloth’ campaign was released last week with a website, YouTube videos and social media tags. It uses a giant, clumsy sloth – a South American animal known for its laziness – to represent teenagers that use marijuana.

The campaign has gone viral, but for all the wrong reasons as numerous critics have ridiculed it online.

More damning for the NSW government is the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre’s withering statement distancing itself from the campaign.

The NCPIC, which consists of several medical experts on marijuana use, said it was only involved prior to the campaign and not in its development, giving "basic analysis" and recommendations of how a campaign should be run.

"In this case, those general recommendations were things like being aware that teenagers are intelligent and have access to a lot of information, so campaign approaches should respect them and give them credit by avoiding hyperbole," the statement said.

"While we wish the NSW Government luck in future cannabis campaigns, the current Stoner Sloth campaign doesn't reflect NCPIC views on how cannabis harms campaigns should be approached."

More criticism has come, tellingly, from the head of the NSW government, Mike Baird, who expressed his confusion with the campaign.

— Mike Baird (@mikebairdMP) December 19, 2015

Yet it was Baird’s Department of Premier and Cabinet that signed off on the campaign in partnership with NSW Health.

In a statement obtained by Mashable, the department said: "The stoner sloth public awareness campaign has been designed to encourage positive behaviours in young people before bad habits start, and motivate discontinued use of cannabis before they become dependent."

Several parody videos and GIFs have emerged online of the campaign.

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