Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over in November 2012. Those same adults — and many others — started buying cannabis in stores on Jan. 1, 2014.
After four years, you’d think they’d be professionals at this. Yet after more than four years, Colorado adults apparently still don’t know what they’re doing and need to be patiently reminded not to drive high, not to eat too many edibles too quickly and to not leave their legal cannabis out in the open where kids can get at it.
This is at least part of the subtext of “Meg the Budtender,” part of Colorado’s latest effort at ensuring the more than $1 billion worth of cannabis sold in the state is consumed responsibly. Another part, and much more significant: The tacit admission that, yes, you can be a parent and functional adult while also using cannabis.
As the Denver Post reported on Monday, “Meg” (an actress who looks far too young to have what appears to be an 8-year old boy living in her kitchen cabinets; no millennial has valuable cabinet space to spare to anyone not paying rent) is one of the stars of Colorado authorities’ latest attempt at a marijuana public-education campaign.
With Meg and “Responsibility Grows Here,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is trying to build on some limited success seen over the past year — and avoid the stone-cold failures campaigns in 2014 suffered.
Perhaps you remember those 2014 ads. If you do not, that’s the point, but they went like this: Friendly looking stoners doing dumb things, like failing to properly secure a flat-screen television to the wall. Though there’s still no clear indication if marijuana-related driving accidents spiked because of legalization or because of increased testing and awareness following legalization, both academics and cannabis advocacy groups like the Marijuana Policy Project declared the ads terrible — a verdict supported by science. Since the ads relied on ridicule and aversion, viewers were less likely to absorb the information and alter their behavior accordingly.
Another campaign, called “Good to Know,” debuted in 2015 and enjoyed more success. In these ads, reminders of marijuana law were contained in catchy jingles set to country music. According to a later health department study, viewers of these ads were more than twice as likely to be aware that cannabis can’t be used in public or given to teens than the public at large.
Which begs a question: Why, or how, have people not already been aware this is the case? One theory is that like DARE class, messages that are overly negative fail. Viewers tune them out. They’re just not relatable — and they’re also seen as part of the same continuum of fear-mongering and propaganda that began with Harry Anslinger and “Reefer Madness.”
Meg, by contrast, is almost suspiciously friendly. Look at her smile, as she carries a mug of tea around her clean kitchen — a place wholly inappropriate to store cannabis if there are children about! (Meg does not say where she stocks her chilled bottles of rose, presumably in a locked wine fridge in her home’s secure panic room.)
In addition to Meg, according to the Post, Colorado residents and visitors are subjected to ads on radio, social media, and elsewhere, aimed at four distinct segments of the population: breastfeeding women, youth, tourists and Colorado-residing adults.
You could look at all this and publicly wonder what’s wrong with both the public and health authorities, when fluency with basic cannabis use and safety still eludes most citizens. That would be cynical. This is a breakthrough in at least one way: Health authorities are tacitly admitting that you can use cannabis and still be a positive role model for children.
TELL US, do you believe cannabis consumers can be positive role models for kids?