The numbers are in on how much the NSW government paid to launch its “Stoner Sloth” anti-marijuana campaign.
In the series the character – a man in a sloth costume – is unable to sit a high school exam, pass salt around the dinner table or mingle with others at a party — because that’s what cannabis does to you, right?
The ads were widely ridiculed, even by state premier, Mike Baird:
Just saw the #StonerSloth ads. Not sure where NSW Gov's ad guys found Chewbaccas siblings, but those videos are… Quite something.
— Mike Baird (@mikebairdMP) December 19, 2015
And so it was only a matter of time before we found out that the campaign cost taxpayers; $350,000 and everyone got angry about that, mainly because the ads were a bit lame.
But if we really want to break this argument down to a dollar-for-dollar basis, here’s one way of looking at it.
Leading researchers Collins and Lapsley found that the annual economic cost of illicit drug misuse to Australian society was $8.2 billion. That translates to just under a $1 billion loss for NSW.
It’s possible to break that down using official usage and social cost estimates of cannabis abuse.
The AMA’s stats (2010) are as follows:
- 1.9 million Australians had used cannabis in the past 12 months, and
- 247,000 Australians used cannabis daily
From that, it’s fair to assume NSW has 220,000 non-dependent users and 28,865 dependent users, based on the national average.
So let’s look at what those users cost because the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre put some figures on it in 2007. In terms of health costs, it found dependent users cost the country $1.19 billion. So let’s assume dependent users are daily users, which means they cost Australia an average of $4838 each based on the AMA’s usage figures.
In terms of crime costs, NDARC found dependent users cost the country $1.6 billion at an average of $6477 each. That’s for a total of $11,315 per dependent user.
In NSW – where there are 28,865 daily users – that translates to an annual cost of $326.6 million.
The “Stoner Sloth” campaign cost $350,000 and it reached 4 million viewers on YouTube alone.
Whether you think the ad is ridiculous or not, there’s an excellent chance it will have helped at least 30 of those 28,865 daily users desperately needing to kick the habit and get their lives back together.
If so, it’s paid for itself.
That should be some comfort for those worried about governments wasting their tax dollars.
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