In Washington, a billboard aimed at dissuading teenagers and young adults from using marijuana has caused controversy over what some critics characterize as a racially insensitive move.
The billboard, erected in Yakima, seems innocuous at first glance. Several teens are gathered together and smiling for a group selfie and in big bold letters is the message: “We don’t need pot to have fun.” But then the billboard takes a bizarre turn.
“We’re Hispanics,” reads the second part of the billboard, “we’re cool by default.”
The outpouring of indignation was almost immediate as people took to social media to blast the billboard. Speaking with KNDO, Julie Graham, Public Information Officer for the Washington Department of Health, apologized for the offensive message and said that the billboard was conceived by Hispanic youth participating in the Listen To Your Selfie anti-marijuana campaign.
“It was basically a group of teens who were looking to figure out what kind of messages and images would be effective at reaching their peers,” Graham said. “We’ll take what we have learned and try to come up with something that works better and might have a broader application across the state.”
The billboard was scheduled to run through July 28, 2017, but was taken down early due to the controversy.