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"High costs" marijuana campaign: Denver teens learn the risks of underage use

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

David Heitz

10 hours ago

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(Denver, Colo.) Marijuana may be priced the lowest it has been in decades, but the City and County of Denver wants youth to know that it still comes with “High Costs.”

The “High Costs” campaign is funded by marijuana tax revenue. “The goal of the campaign is to ensure that Denver youth have the facts about marijuana so they can make an informed decision not to use underage,” according to a presentation from city staff to the City Council. “Originally launched in 2017, the initial program contract has expired, and a new contract has been sought through a competitive RFP process.”

The City Council will vote Monday on whether to pay $375,000 per year for five years to Amelie Company to create content for the campaign. It will be decidedly different from the failed “Just Say No” campaign led by First Lady Nancy Reagan in the 1980s. “A successful campaign will not employ scare tactics but will instead use positive, engaging messaging to teach youth about marijuana laws and the potential social and physiological impacts of underage marijuana use,” according to background information in the agenda provided to the City Council. “The campaign will be grounded in positive youth development principles."

Campaign in place since 2017

So how has the campaign changed teens’ marijuana views since 2017? According to the information provided to the council, among teens aware of the campaign, 81% indicated that the High Costs campaign discouraged them from using marijuana. Another 74% of teens engaged with online posts by liking, sharing or talking about them with friends. “The majority of teens agree that the High Costs campaign has a clear message, is educational, trustworthy and likeable,” according to the presentation to council.

The city is spending money on social media and video sites, mobile gaming apps, digital radio, billboards, and other mediums popular with teens to get the word out about illegal marijuana consumption.

According to their data, the campaign has achieved 195 million paid media impressions. More than 165 news stories generated over 65.5 million earned media impressions, generating a publicity value of over $4 million, according to city staff. In 2018, High Costs and the Weeded Out game show were featured on CBS This Morning.

Ahead for 2023

In 2023, the campaign will be refreshed “to continue to be relevant and connect with youth, particularly middle school age and priority populations at a higher risk.” The campaign will create new content to address new and emerging types of use, such as vaping or dabbing.

The campaign also will be updated to address “social factors and continued stress and emotional concerns brought to bear by COVID that could lead to underage use.”


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