Despite claims from prohibitionist Fake News-generators, it appears that the worst fears around marijuana legalization and teen use have not proven true. That’s right. Marijuana legalization has not led to a spike in youth consumption.
A year after Denver launched a marijuana-focused educational campaign targeting local youth, a new survey released Tuesday reports that the majority of teens familiar with the city’s efforts said they decided against underage cannabis consumption.
The research, conducted by Insights Lab, was commissioned to measure the effectiveness of Denver’s High Costs campaign, which was launched in 2017 and is funded by the city’s tax revenue on retail cannabis. Among the myriad ways the city is working to get teens talking about marijuana and its associated risks for underage users are social media campaigns, billboards, school bus signage, an online game show called “Weeded Out” and a Weeded Out trivia card game.
More than 500 teens who live in the city and county of Denver participated in the survey, which was available online November 21 through December 18, 2018. Sixty-four percent said they were aware of the High Costs campaign, most having seen online ads on Facebook and YouTube. A majority recognized that the campaign’s intended message was to provide facts about underage marijuana use, though 53 percent also said the program “provides biased information” to discourage use.
Many teens also said they thought High Costs was trustworthy (75 percent) and likable (73 percent), while about half indicated the tone was “preachy or judgmental.”
In terms of effectiveness, the survey found that 75 percent of the participants who were aware of High Costs said the campaign made them either not want to use, less likely to use or think twice about using marijuana.
“Teens want facts and they want to be able to make their own decisions,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D), who called the city’s legal cannabis system a “success” last year, said in a statement. “When we give teens the facts and equip them with knowledge, they make smarter choices about using marijuana.”
In order to build on the first year’s success, the survey report’s authors suggest the city continue growing its online presence and consider more nontraditional marketing methods, including giveaways.
The report also points out that 18 percent of teens said they currently use marijuana. According to the survey’s findings, they appeared skeptical of the campaign and less likely to share its information with friends.
“This audience is going to be difficult to reach, as they’ve already decided to use and naturally are going to reject information that contradicts their decision,” the report states. “For now, focus on the core audience of non-users and past-users, and evaluate the opportunity to target this segment again in a year.”
Last week, Denver officials released an interactive map that tracks how the city spends cannabis tax revenue on educational efforts.