Coalitions in Action: Youth Marijuana Prevention Campaign Launched in Movie Theater
A Northern California coalition is influencing public policy with a campaign to educate teens and their parents about the negative impacts of marijuana use.
The Catalyst Coalition, a program of the Napa County Office of Education, has launched an innovative campaign titled, “Be Ahead of the Crowd: Use your brain, not weed,” based on research conducted by Duke University.
The study followed more than 1,000 participants over decades, measuring their marijuana use and IQs. The results showed an association between regular marijuana use that began in adolescence and a drop of eight IQ points by the mid-30s, even if participants had stopped using the drug.
According to the 2011 California Healthy Kids Survey, between 31 percent and 47 percent of seventh-grade students in Napa County public schools said they believe that marijuana causes little or no harm if a person smokes it once or twice a week, said CADCA member Lisa Toller, Catalyst Coalition Coordinator, Napa County Office of Education. She also said that although there are no dispensaries in their county, 77 percent of students surveyed also reported that marijuana is easy to get.
Utilizing focus groups and developing a creative brief helped the coalition get the campaign off the ground, in addition to the data that area teens still aren’t getting the message that marijuana is bad for them, Toller said.
The campaign will include a public service announcement that will be screened at the city’s multiplex as well as information that goes home through middle and high schools about marijuana’s damage. The PSA will be shown before every PG-13 and R-rated movie for two weeks this month and for two weeks in May, which is also Mental Health Month.
“We are taking the tack that marijuana use is a mental health issue for teens. After finding out how unaware the teens were of the negative impact of marijuana on their health, we wanted to re-double our efforts to get the facts out there,” Toller said.
As part of the campaign, Toller and her coalition are collecting signatures for a proclamation signed by county health and education leaders declaring that marijuana is harmful for teens and encouraging all citizens to work to keep youth from accessing and using marijuana. The proclamation will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in May.
In addition, the coalition developed a 4-inch round sticker and partnered with a local skateboard retailer to disseminate it at their store and well as to have his team stick it on their skateboards.
“We feel like there are not enough health prevention messages that say marijuana is bad for your brain. We are hoping this helps and the next time we see the California Healthy Kids Survey, the perception of harm and past-30-day use will reveal that yes, kids do see marijuana as being harmful to them and they are using it less.”
Toller hopes changing teens’ minds about the drug will then influence their parents and policy. There are lots of marijuana grows in neighboring Mendocino and Humboldt counties. In Napa County, where the coalition is headquartered, they are seeing marijuana being grown in private vineyards without the owner’s knowledge and on public lands. This can be a dangerous situation, both for public health and public safety, she said.
View the PSA here.