Initiative 71 (I-71) went into effect on February 26, 2015. This initiative makes it lawful under District of Columbia law for a person 21 years of age or older to possess, grow, use, give, and receive marijuana according to very specific guidelines. The passage of Initiative 71 led to widespread confusion within the community in regard to the legality of marijuana use, and the resulting effects on one’s health. Officials at the DC Department of Behavioral Health found it critical that the public be informed on the realities of marijuana in the District and hired Octane to create a widespread public information campaign.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), smoking marijuana affects the brain and leads to impaired short-term memory, perception, judgement and motor skills.
Octane conducted focus groups to elicit feedback on the attitudes and knowledge of I-71. The primary goal was to understand awareness and knowledge around existing District laws for marijuana use; explore risk perceptions, beliefs, norms and attitudes about marijuana use; and, to establish awareness about resources in the District.
Three focus groups were conducted with youth (10-17 years old), young adults (18-24 years old) and adults (25 and over), from different ethnicities and living in Washington, DC.
- Marijuana use is generally less stigmatized now than it used to be
- Youth participants seem most likely to respond to persons of influence
- Participants believe marijuana is relatively easy to obtain and not that harmful
- Educate youth and young adults about the harms of marijuana use
- Increase awareness of the District’s marijuana laws including what is legal and illegal
- Connect residents to DBH resources around prevention, treatment and recovery
The research findings and recommendations resulted in the creation of “The Blunt Truth” campaign featuring characters Mary Jane, Reggie, and their dog, Kush. In the campaign, the characters share information and educate audiences about DC’s marijuana laws along with the health consequences of marijuana use.
The End Result
Drug Free Youth DC is the prevention focused web property where DBH’s “The Blunt Truth” campaign resides. The website features drug prevention information and laws for youth under 21 and adults.
The campaign launched in December of 2015 and appeared in several media outlets, outdoor advertisements, radio, and social media making a significant impact on the community. Octane developed print materials like palm cards and brochures to be distributed at community events.
The campaign also gained a significant amount of earned media, up to 500,000 impressions over three media platforms.
The Washington Post
‘The Blunt Truth’: D.C. wants kids to know about the dangers of pot
‘Mary Jane, Reggie, And Kush’ Warn Of Pot Dangers In New D.C. Health Campaign
The Washington Sun
District Launches “Blunt Truth” campaign, educates youth about the harmful effects of marijuana usage.
Advertising and organic social media for the campaign were very successful. The campaign ads, and later, the campaign video caught the attention of many DC residents.
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