“Just Say No!”, “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs!”, “Reefer Madness!” Remember those early efforts for the War on Drugs? In taking on the Los Angeles Department of Public Health’s program to address the legalization of marijuana for teens 13-18, we spoke with teens all over the county, and confirmed what we suspected: how ineffective these efforts really are. Worse, they reduced the credibility of governments to wage this so-called “war.”
Cannabis laws have a 100-year-history of being some of the most racist, ignorant, politically motivated and fear based laws ever enacted. From Harry Anslinger’s early efforts, to Richard Nixon’s desire to bust hippie and black Vietnam War protesters by making it a Schedule One drug, on par with heroin, cannabis has been the recipient of reckless law making.
With its legalization in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and now California, common sense law is now occurring and creating a decent new source of revenue while also helping people in areas of medicine and health. But, there is absolutely no research allowed by the federal government to test the negative or positive impact that the new strains of cannabis have.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health treads very cautiously into this new world. Its concern was to start conversations and to inform teens about what we do know.
We’re no longer in the business of scold and scare. Our research revealed those messages to be of no consequence, and in fact, were widely ridiculed.
It’s a new world. It’s time to approach this substance and the culture it will spawn in new ways.
Fraser Communications conducted over 100 focus groups throughout the LAUSD system to discuss new realities, attitudes, peer behavior and existing cannabis communications to get an idea of how teens were dealing with the legal weed.
We staged story workshops with the demographic to develop communication ideas by teens, for teens. Sensitive to their views, true to their language, attitudes, and realities, the best ideas were chosen in peer review and produced for all relevant platforms of social media.
We heard a lot of themes, but the strongest thread was about how these kids have dreams, how they want to accomplish something with their lives. They have Bigger Choices to make. Bigger than smoking weed.
We found out about the excuses they use to defend their use of weed, about how they’re not sure what weed does and doesn’t do, and about how much they want to have honest conversations with their parents about smoking cannabis.
They want the facts. They want the truth. They want support when they are ridiculed for not participating. And they want to try to keep their eye on the ball of their own personal achievement.
All we want is for them to think about it. Postpone its use. Temper its use if they are going to use it. Or, decide that it’s OK that it’s just not for them.
That they have Bigger Choices. And weed might just get in the way of making them.
The effort is being hailed as the most innovative approach in the country and our materials are being requested by other counties and states.
And this is just the fascinating beginning.