Following the legalization of marijuana in Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority was tasked with the design, implementation, and evaluation of a pilot health education campaign to increase awareness of the possible negative health effects of marijuana use by youth and young adults. Oregon’s youth marijuana prevention campaign aims to protect the public’s health by providing motivating, factual, and believable information to help prevent or delay underage marijuana use.
DHM conducted extensive research to assist public relations firm Coates Kokes in developing the Stay True to You campaign that delivers science-based messages to youth and young adults by evoking values and emotions identified as meaningful through audience research. In total, 28 focus groups were conducted in Portland, Bend, Medford, and Pendleton engaging 260 youth and young adults between 14 and 20 years old. Groups were conducted in English and Spanish, and included participants from the African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, white, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Latino communities. The campaign messaging targeted the so-called “movable middle” of these populations, including occasional marijuana users and those considering use.
The public awareness campaign was initially launched in five counties: Jackson, Josephine, Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah, and in June 2017 an independent evaluation found that the pilot campaign successfully raised awareness of the legal consequences of underage marijuana use and contributed to a correct public perception that one in five Oregon teens use marijuana. The campaign was subsequently expanded statewide.