An anti-marijuana billboard in Washington state upset some and confused many for featuring a group of young Latinos next to the message: “We don’t need pot to have fun. We’re Hispanics... We’re cool by default.”
On Tuesday, reporter Mike Faulk of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted a photo of the billboard on Twitter. While some Twitter users called the sign “totally inappropriate” and “tone-deaf,” others found the billboard amusing.
The billboard is part of the Washington State Department of Health’s statewide prevention campaign that seeks to dissuade teens from using marijuana, according to The Associated Press. The government agency promised to remove the sign and apologized via Twitter.
A spokesperson told Vox on Wednesday that the billboard was developed with input from Hispanic community members “who have expertise in reaching specific communities.” The billboard was also “extensively tested” among Hispanics living in the Yakima Valley, they said.
“At no point during our testing did we hear any feedback that indicated this message may offend anyone,” the spokesperson told Vox. “Actually, we were excited to learn youth found this message empowering and most felt a sense of heightened pride in their Hispanic heritage. We certainly don’t want to offend people, and our overall goal is to be effective in reaching specific people with information that resonates with them.”