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South Dakota is on meth, and it's not afraid to say so

The state's new anti-drug campaign lights up Twitter with jokes and memes.

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South Dakota's new anti-meth campaign definitely got people to notice. On Monday, Gov. Kristi Noem launched a program to bring attention to the problem of methamphetamine abuse in the Mount Rushmore State, and the slogan couldn't help but draw comments. The campaign is using the motto, "Meth. We're on it," and featuring various images of South Dakotans or an image of the state itself.

"There is a meth problem in South Dakota, and we need everyone on it," reads a press release about the new campaign.

Readers might do a double take over the double meaning. The state (apparently) doesn't mean "on it" as in encouraging its citizens to become hooked on the drug, but "on it" as in attuned to the crisis and trying to help fix it. 

Laurie Gill, South Dakota secretary of the Department of Social Services, says in the statement that about 83% of the state's 2019 court admissions for controlled substances were related to meth. The state has a website, OnMeth.com, offering details about the program and how to get treatment or volunteer to help others.

Naturally, Twitter users had thoughts, especially after the Argus Leader newspaper reported the state has paid nearly $449,000 to a Minneapolis ad agency for the campaign in 2019.

Tweeted New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie, "For half the cost of this campaign I will develop an even better slogan: 'Drugs. Hell yeah.'"

Even one of the Argus Leader's own Twitter accounts poked at the state, noting that while South Dakota is announcing, "Meth. We're on it," the rest of the country may be responding with, "Hey, um, are you guys OK over there?"

Turns out South Dakota has launched other questionable ad campaigns, and Twitter users remember them. A "Don't Jerk and Drive" campaign was supposed to urge South Dakota drivers not to jerk the steering wheel in winter weather. But some saw a more adult meaning to the word "jerk."

And a 2015 ad campaign promoted the state as a better place to live than Mars because it has air.

Other states got involved. Jennifer Brooks, a columnist at the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, saw a chance for neighbor-state needling, tweeting a picture of Minnesota pointing at South Dakota with the words, "Meth. They're on it."

"I think we can piggyback on this moment," she wrote.

But not everyone hated it. Wrote one Twitter user, "Considering this is the only anti-meth campaign I've ever heard of, it's pretty genius."

And the governor herself responded that the attention being paid to the campaign meant it's doing its job. "Hey Twitter, the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness," she wrote. "So I think that's working."

Originally published Nov. 18.