Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Is a Pro-Pot State like Colorado Keeping Teens Away from Marijuana?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Is a Pro-Pot State like Colorado Keeping Teens Away from Marijuana?

Article excerpt

One of the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana is taking steps to keep teens from using the drug.

Colorado, in its second public service campaign since pot became legal at the start of 2014 for people over 21, was careful this time to not vilify the drug. Instead, after Health Department officials talked with more than 800 minors through focus groups, school visits, and phone interviews to help craft the campaign, the ads seek to send the message that marijuana use early in life can stymie a child's potential.

Called the "What's Next" campaign, the ads show active kids and reminds them that their brains continue to develop until they're 25. The ads say that pot use can make it harder for them to pass a test, land a job, or pass the exam for a driver's license.

The state Health Department faced backlash last year for its first effort, called "Don't Be A Lab Rat," which marijuana activists said recycled Drug War-era scare tactics. That youth anti-pot campaign included erecting human-sized rat cages outside schools and libraries. Some Colorado teens used the installation art as an opportunity to criticize the campaign by photographing themselves smoking pot inside the cages, then posting the images on social media.

The new campaign aims to strike a different tone.

One ad shows a teen girl playing on a basketball court and the tag line, "Don't let marijuana get in the way of ambition." Another ad shows a boy playing on a drum set with the tag line, "Don't let marijuana get in the way of passion."

The Health Department said that its research showed that teens "want credible information to make their own health decisions and don't respond to 'preachy' messages or scare tactics," in a news release for the newest campaign.

Colorado also has a pot-education campaign for the general public that includes tips for parents on how to talk to their kids about the newly legal drug. Called the "Good To Know" campaign, the ads tell parents to stay positive but encourages them to start a conversation about the drug.

"Teach them that marijuana use is not something to build an identity around," that campaign suggests. …

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