Quite possibly the world’s first public service announcement on marijuana to feature hoedown music launched on radio stations across Colorado on Monday, part of a new campaign that state health officials hope will educate — not alienate — marijuana consumers about responsible use.
The new effort, called the “Good to Know” campaign, is the state’s first public-education campaign to be paid for out of recreational marijuana tax dollars. What really sets the “Good to Know” campaign apart, though, is its almost playful tone.
Typical government-backed messages on marijuana feature ominous music and images. Last year’s controversial “Don’t Be A Lab Rat” campaign in Colorado — which featured human-sized hamster cages spread around Denver — attempted a slightly different approach but was criticized for being more of the same.
The “Good to Know” campaign, by contrast, uses bright colors and rhyming messages. (Sample: “For those underage, it’s just not okay. Their brains are still growing, so keep it away.”) The radio ads that began airing Monday employ a folksy narrator backed by what sounds like music from a square dance. Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, described the tone as, “neighborly.”
“This is not an aversion campaign,” he said. “This is really a way to educate folks without alienating folks.”
The ads are part of Colorado’s changing calculations on how to talk to the public about pot now that marijuana is legalized. The campaign, at least at first, seeks to relay basic information about Colorado’s marijuana laws, such as the prohibition on public pot use or the ban on giving marijuana to kids. It started with radio spots Monday and will be followed by print and television ads, billboards and informational posters placed in pot shops. A website — www.goodtoknowcolorado.com — provides additional information.
The “Good to Know” campaign is targeted broadly at adults and visitors to Colorado. Future efforts will more directly target teens, parents, pregnant women and Hispanics. The entire educational campaign costs $5.7 million, which comes from recreational marijuana sales tax revenue.
Marijuana store owner Ean Seeb, who sat on the committee that helped craft the ads’ messages, said he was surprised the government was willing to back ads that didn’t condemn marijuana use.
“It makes it more accessible,” he said.
Diane Carlson, a member of the group Smart Colorado, which is concerned about legalization, called the ads “a great start,” but said she’s looking forward to more specific ads talking about marijuana’s harms.
“It’s a real challenge,” said Carlson, who also sat on the ad-drafting committee, “to educate on the laws and the harmful effects when you only have a 30-second sound bite.”
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, email@example.com or twitter.com/johningold