Marijuana Legalization Presenting New Challenges for Anti-Drug Messaging

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Ever since the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign of the ‘80s came out, anti-drug messaging has focused on helping kids make the decision to stay away from drugs by pointing out the legal ramifications. But now with marijuana becoming legal in several states, for either recreational or medical use, anti-drug educators are met with the challenge of providing new incentivization for kids to stay away from drugs that goes beyond the fear of getting in trouble.

“Making it legal makes it much more accessible, more available,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NY Times, 2014). With legalization making the drug more available, kids are also prone to see it as less harmful. Anti-drug educators have recognized this and are pivoting from the traditional strategy of “Just Say No” to a more refined conversation about the health risks associated with experiencing any form of substance use as kids.

Educators are now mirroring the messaging about marijuana with that of smoking and alcohol, two substances that are both legal but can be very harmful to the health of growing adolescents. Anti-drug educators plan to continue talking about marijuana’s scientifically proven health risks when used at a young age with the goal of delaying the trial and use of marijuana and other legal substances like tobacco or alcohol.


Source: Iconoculture (2017)