How The Stoner Sloth Became An Internet Sensation, For All The Right Reasons

Want to know why everyone in your smoking circle keeps asking you to pass the salt? It's thanks to a series of anti-drug ads recently launched by the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) - the legislators of the Australian state that is home to Sydney. Each PSA features a befuddled creature called Stoner Sloth, who struggles to do simple things like passing a salad. The idea is that we all become stoner sloths when we're high. Here's the highlight reel:

The campaign instantly went viral, but for all the wrong reasons. Rather than dissuading people from using cannabis, the sloth has become an instant cannabis culture icon.

Here are the five best reactions to this online sensation.

1. Commercializing the commercial

No Internet sensation is complete without a deluge of kitschy merchandise. And Stoner Sloth is no exception. The viral fever for the sloth hadn't yet peaked before people began hawking unofficial memorabilia including this t-shirt:

2. Standing up for salad

While some tried to line their wallets by making fun of the ads, others are using it as part of public health campaign to get people eating better. Some believe the sloth was right to pass salad instead of salt, and they're speaking out by making the stoner sloth a mascot for dietary health:

3. Stoner Sloth gets disowned

While the online cannabis community embraced Stoner Sloth, one anti-cannabis group quickly distanced themselves. The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre - which has consulted with the New South Wales Government on cannabis - doesn't want to be associated with the campaign.

And they were asked about their involvement so many times they felt the need to clarify their relationship with the government and distance themselves from the ads in an official statement:

"Following our initial consultation, the NSW Government moved into campaign development phases with a creative agency, and the agency provided creative concept. NCPIC was not advised of or consulted about creative concept - the stoner sloth idea - and learnt of it at the same point as all other Australians when the campaign was released this week, so cannot provide insights into its development."

And they don't want anyone thinking they support the anti-cannabis mascot:

"While NCPIC is an evidence-based body, and is happy to support the NSW Government with information and recommendations at any time, in this case it has been unfortunately implied in media that the Centre's involvement was greater than it actually was. 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, as was implied by the media."

4. One person's travesty is another's treasure

While the government and the NPIC distanced themselves from the ads, one group is thrilled with them. The website, a Colorado-based business designed to help cannabis aficionados optimize their experience, received a major boost in traffic because of the PSA.Daniel, the site operator, told The Guardian that he's had 1,000 page views from Australia every day since the ads debuted.

"The irony of it is pretty funny," he said. "They really wanted to go with the Stoner Sloth brand for this, despite the domain and pages being used."He also used the opportunity to criticize the Australian state for its ridiculous message: "The campaign looks like fear, as in this is what happens when you smoke weed, when it doesn't show an accurate depiction of that – obviously someone high can pass the salt. Like many people who smoke, I have had sloth moments. You can, as it is said, 'over-medicate' and feel couch-locked, not wanting to do anything – but I know people who get that without smoking too."

5. The premier strikes back

And the NPIC weren't the only ones caught off-guard by the PSA. Mike Baird - the premier of New South Wales - apparently wasn't aware of his government's campaign either. But instead of distancing himself, he joined in the fun by suggesting the ads were something like a bizarre sequel to The Star Wars Holiday Special:

And, in case you were wondering, Baird wasn't the only one who made the Star Wars connection. Michael Trembath from Adelaide, Australia not only made the connection but threw together a Stoner Sloth movie poster:

h/t The Guardian


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