Denver, Colorado’s youth cannabis education campaign is working—and it’s an important lesson to other states that are pondering cannabis legalization, but are concerned about youth consuming cannabis recreationally.
The High Costs campaign highlights the risks of underage recreational use of cannabis, including brain development impairment. Begun in 2013, it is funded with millions of dollars of tax revenue from the sale of cannabis in the city of Denver and Denver County. The High Costs campaign targets teenagers through social media, including Snapchat filters, gaming apps that included prizes, radio ads, school bus signage and even classroom materials that included a trivia game. The most commonly recognized ads on social media were posted on Facebook and YouTube.
The Insights Lab survey polled over 55,000 respondents, including 500 Denver area teens. Three quarters of the teens said the campaign was familiar to them. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents were familiar with the campaign and 83 percent said the messaging was clear. Seventy-five percent said that the campaign discouraged them from using cannabis.
“Teens want facts and they want to be able to make their own decisions,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “When we give teens the facts and equip them with knowledge, they make smarter choices about using marijuana.”
The teenagers most likely to be aware of the campaign were males who were current users, but the survey also showed that 81 percent of those surveyed hadn’t used cannabis in the last month.. Ten percent of those polled use cannabis more than once a month.
The teenagers polled were equally distributed between sexes and the ages 13-17. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents said they had never used, and 21 percent said they had only used it once or twice. Younger teenagers were more influenced by the campaign than older teens.