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State’s new marijuana ads strike friendly tone

Forget the fried egg, the talking dog, and the two-dimensional teen — a few of the scolding antimarijuana ads once common on television. A new public awareness campaign is adopting a gentler, non-judgmental tone as officials work to educate Massachusetts residents on the state’s cannabis laws and to decrease youth use rates.

The campaign, dubbed “More About Marijuana,” was unveiled Thursday by the state Cannabis Control Commission and Department of Public Health, and includes two 30-second animated videos and a website.

Watch the video:

Developed with the help of surveys and focus groups, the materials remind residents about various aspects of the marijuana law, including how old they must be to purchase recreational pot (21), how many plants they can grow at home (six, or 12 if more than one adult lives there), how marijuana should be stored (locked away from children and pets), and how much pot can be carried in public (up to an ounce). They also include “conversation starters” for parents who want to talk to their children about not using cannabis.

“All the rhetoric and campaigns are over,” said Cannabis Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan, who helped lead the campaign’s development. Now, “we really want to make sure this product is used correctly, it’s used legally, [and] without diversion to minors.”

The campaign — which was announced a day after state safety officials debuted new anti-stoned driving ads — will eventually be expanded to include more digital content, television and radio spots, plus ads on billboards and public transit. It will also add additional topics, such as the dangers of making marijuana concentrates at home.

Cedric Sinclair, the commission’s director of communications, said the surveys and focus groups revealed “significant confusion and misunderstanding of the details” of state marijuana laws among the public. And parents told state researchers they could use help talking to their youngsters about the drug as commercial pot sales get underway later this year.

“Now is the perfect time to add marijuana to the conversation,” a peppy narrator says in one video from the campaign aimed at parents. “Listen to what they have to say; make sure they know that you want them be healthy and safe; give your kids the facts, but set clear rules about marijuana use.”

Jane Allen, a research public health analyst at the nonprofit RTI International who specializes in measuring the impact of ad campaigns, said Massachusetts could tighten up aspects of its messaging, but generally praised the tone of “More About Marijuana.”

“It’s important that the ads are nonjudgmental and unbiased,” Allen said.

Striking a friendly tone is generally more effective, Allen said, but especially important in Massachusetts, where “the message from local government prior to the [2016] vote was fairly anti-marijuana.”

“That reduces the credibility,” Allen said. “The state needs to build trust before it can effectively message on the health effects.”

[source: / published: August 9. 2018]


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