Washington Department of Health’s Campaign for Educating Parents & Kids

By Sam Mendez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project

Back in mid-2014, the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) launched an advertising campaign to provide information regarding the state’s new marijuana laws to parents. It included radio ads with expert doctors along with online advertising, both particularly geared towards families of color. A second campaign was launched in early 2015 via transit and print publications. These campaigns were similar to those done in other states, including Oregon’s recent campaign and those done in Colorado.

Ads created by WSDOH aimed to reach parents.

Ads created by WSDOH aimed to reach parents.

Outside of a few medical exceptions, marijuana stakeholders are largely unified in wanting to keep marijuana out of reach of children. There are studies indicating harm on teenage brains from marijuana use, and keeping minors from obtaining marijuana was one of the objectives indicated by the Department of Justice in its 8/29/2013 Cole Memo.

Colorado’s Department of Public Health & Environment has a helpful webpage with a number of educational links, including information around marijuana and contact with infants, access by youth, tips for professionals serving youth, and others.

Oregon’s campaign in 2015 was geared more towards education around its state laws and what individuals could legally do and possess. The campaign cost $350,000 and also included portions designed to keep Oregon’s system within the same Cole Memo. The campaign was designed to be non-judgmental, and aiming just to explain the laws, and not argue the merits or demerits of marijuana. A spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control board said, “We are not going to get into the benefits or the evils of marijuana,” he said. “We just want people to know what they can and can’t do under the law. It’s as simple as that.”

WSDOH encourages parents and others interested to consult the information provided on starttalkingnow.org and from the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.

All of these outreach programs aim to be more informative than opinionated, and thus none have gained the infamy of Australia’s Stoner Sloth advertisements.

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