The New Drug Safety Awareness Message: Eat Your Pot Brownies, But Stay Chill

Now that pot is legal in Colorado and Washington, marijuana advocates have decided it’s time for a different kind of public service announcement.

An entire generation remembers the frying eggs ads that told us “This is your brain on drugs” on TV.


Now that pot is legal in Colorado and Washington, marijuana advocates have decided it’s time for a different kind of public service announcement. Rather than warning people off from the drug entirely with scary pronouncements, the Marijuana Policy Project unveiled a new “Consume Responsibly” campaign this week that urges moderation, not abstinence, similar to the way advertisers treat alcohol.

A billboard in Denver focused on edible pot reads: “Don’t let candy ruin your vacation. With edibles, start low and go slow.” (It’s inspired by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s recent pot misadventure while visiting the city.)

A print ad will poke fun at the over-the-top scare-mongering that previous anti-pot campaigns have perpetuated, from telling people that getting high will hurt their children and support terrorists to letting them know they may never leave their couch again. In total, according to the Associated Press, the campaign will spend $75,000 this year to get the message out.

“We are only doing ads in Colorado and Washington for now, but this is just the beginning of a much larger campaign to educate the public about the need to be responsible when it comes to marijuana consumption,” Marijuana Policy Project communications manager Morgan Fox told Co.Exist in an email. He noted that even though marijuana is safer than alcohol–and has never resulted in an overdose death–consumers need education about safe consumption. The campaign’s web site details research and facts about the law, health and safety risks, and responsibilities related to cannabis consumption. For example, Colorado has established a “legal” blood THC limit for drivers, beyond which they are considered impaired and breaking the law.

Colorado state health officials are taking a different, more traditional approach to safety advocacy, one that is less appreciated by the pot industry, according to the AP report. Their ads feature traditional pot user stereotypes, featuring men “zoning out” doing simple activities like playing basketball or lighting a grill while they are high. Another ad is intended to discourage pot-smoking in young people, featuring kids in cages and urging them, “Don’t be a lab rat.”

Both campaigns come as risks around pot use could grow if new users are not aware of their limits. There is a particular need for education around edible pot, which has become increasingly popular in Colorado since legalization. In March, a college student died after jumping off a hotel balcony in Denver after consuming pot cookies. He was found to have high levels of THC in his blood.


Fox, of the Marijuana Policy Project, notes the ads are also another salvo in the wider legalization debate around the country: “It is also important to show opponents of marijuana policy reform that there is such a thing as responsible adult marijuana use,” he says.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.