In states where marijuana has been legalized, the youth prevention needs to be taken in a new direction – away from the shady short films of the past that offered horrible outcomes for those who decided to toke up and move towards a more truthful and educational direction. In the state of Oregon, there were two bills that allocated a total of $3.97 million dollars to develop a pilot program that aims to educate and prevent – or at the very least delay – teen use of marijuana.
The campaign is set to debut in Portland and Southern Oregon via streaming and digital video, social media and, of course, the more traditional path of being displayed in malls and movie theaters. If the campaign is successful in these areas, then it will eventually see a statewide release. Instead of turning towards lies, such as “it’s dangerous”, “it will make you unmotivated” or other such things from the past, they are looking to take a different approach.
“Young people in our focus groups related to the idea that being a teenager is hard,” said Kati Moseley, OHA policy specialist. “Young people recognize that marijuana has the potential to affect their present and their future. We used this insight to develop an approach that speaks to youth on many levels.”
A total of twenty eight focus groups were conducted in Portland, Bend, Medford and Pendleton, totaling 260 youth and young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 years old. The participants helped them find that the thing that teens wanted most was to hear from people with real experience with marijuana – and real reasons not to use it (or at least wait until they are 21 to do so).
The “Stay True to You” campaign offers three different angles – letting teens know they aren’t the only ones who aren’t using marijuana. Their website offers statistics that show a majority of 8th grade and 11th grade students either don’t use marijuana or haven’t even tried it at all. It also takes a look at recent studies which suggest that cannabis has the potential to inhibit proper brain development in teens, since our brains do not finish developing until we are in our twenties.
The last components are testimony from people who have used marijuana in their youth who will advise teens to wait if they decide to use marijuana at all as well as testimony from other teens with reasons that they don’t use marijuana. A big portion of the message to older teens is that younger siblings and their friends watch everything you do – and children who are exposed are more likely to try it themselves as teens (so basically, if you don’t want you little brother or sister smoking pot, you shouldn’t either).
While this is definitely a turnaround compared to campaigns of the past – and it doesn’t demonize the plant as so many anti-marijuana campaigns do, we cannot know if this is the way to prevent teens from using cannabis. Some believe not trying to prevent is even better prevention (the allure to doing something you’re not supposed to will always be there, and for some, that reason alone is good enough). It will likely be a while before we see statistics on how well the Stay True to You campaign has worked – but for the honesty alone, I think it will do better than those before it.