Colorado Ditches Anti-Marijuana Hysteria with New Youth Prevention Campaign


Colorado today launched a new anti-pot campaign aimed at the state’s youth. Coming after a $2 million 2014 youth prevention campaign called “Don’t Be A Lab Rat” was heavily criticized for its Reefer Madness-style scaremongering, the new version has a softer, more positive vibe, focusing on fresh-faced teenagers doing teenagery stuff like playing sports, studying, taking driving tests, and trying to get a date with their summer crush. The recreational marijuana tax-funded message, the Associated Press notes, is “Marijuana isn’t evil, but teens aren’t ready for it:”

Colorado launched a rebranding effort Thursday that seeks to keep people under 21 away from pot. The “What’s Next” campaign aims to send the message that marijuana can keep youths from achieving their full potential.

The campaign shows kids being active and reminds them that their brains aren’t fully developed 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 What’s Next message comes fully equipped with a fresh website featuring nearly a dozen 15-second videos that will, one can assume, eventually make their way to television, a Twitter account that hasn’t yet been used, and an Instagram page featuring heavy use of the #whatsnext tag. As in, “Don’t let marijuana get in the way of trust, passion, fitness, or whatever’s next [#whatsnext].”

Compared to the Don’t Be A Lab Rat campaign website, which featured screaming headlines like “YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS WEED HAS ON THE TEENAGE BRAIN” (seriously) and “Legal Pot Might Make America’s Kids Stupider, Say Researchers” (yeah, really), What’s Next is refreshingly serene with a common sense message. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says that it “conducted extensive research with more than 800 young Coloradans through school visits, focus groups and phone interviews,” and unsurprisingly found that kids don’t want to be preached at or scared straight:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s new youth marijuana education and prevention campaign, launched this week, encourages young Coloradans to think about how their goals will be easier to achieve without marijuana.

The health department conducted extensive research with more than 800 young Coloradans through school visits, focus groups and phone interviews. This research revealed young people want credible information to make their own health decisions and don’t respond to “preachy” messages or scare tactics from traditional media sources. They do respond to messages they can shape and share across mobile platforms — messages that talk about marijuana’s impact on goals such as landing a job, getting and keeping a driver’s license, or doing well on a test.

This new friendlier face of anti-marijuana messaging, as corny as it may seem, is a hopeful change in direction for the state of Colorado and the way it addresses the important issue of cannabis use by young people. And, being that youth prevention is one of the key indicators the Justice Department considers when determining whether or not to crack down on state marijuana efforts, these types of campaigns are vital to the anti-prohibition movement as a whole. 


Alibi writes weed news right here at Marijuana Politics, and infrequently updates The Stoner's Journal. You'll find him reviewing weird bands and editorializing here and there and from time to time.