Ali Maffey, retail marijuana education manager for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, talks to reporters after a news conference to announce the rollout of the $5.7-million, state-sponsored advertising campaign Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, to educate marijuana consumers in Denver. (Denver Post file)

To educate people about marijuana, Colorado health officials tried ads with a radically friendly tone. Did it work?

After Colorado became the first state in the country to launch legal marijuana sales to anyone over 21, state officials faced an equally unprecedented challenge: How to tell people, in this newly permissive environment, that cannabis use still poses risks?

The first effort tried humor, with ads featuring genial stoners making stupid mistakes. The second effort went for the surreal, with giant rat cages set up across the metro area.

Both were widely ridiculed.

But a new report from the Colorado Health Department suggests that a third approach was just right. People who encountered the department’s “Good to Know” campaign — which features a neighborly tone and probably the only use of hoedown music ever in marijuana public service announcements — were more likely to understand the state’s cannabis laws and to believe that marijuana use has risks for health and safety, according to the report.

Those results have Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, cautiously ready to declare a victory in public health messaging about drugs, a field mostly known for prominent failures.

“It, maybe, has been money well spent,” Wolk said.

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