Problem

After marijuana legalization, the state began prevention efforts among teens; however, when it came to engage at-risk youth, they quickly realized that mainstream tactics were not going to cut it.

Solution

Since December 2014 we have been working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) in the Marijuana Public Information and Prevention Campaign focused on providing education to key influencers and the overall community to prevent marijuana use among Colorado’s most vulnerable youth.

Initially, we were hired to explore attitudes and opinions around the legalization of non-medical marijuana, as well as to test initial creative concepts among one of the most vulnerable communities in Colorado: first and second-generation Hispanic parents. Focus groups were conducted across the state during which we unveiled critical disparities between mainstream and Hispanic communities regarding their attitudes towards marijuana use.

Our findings also showed that 1) parents are eager to receive information and be educated regarding retail marijuana, and 2) that schools are among the most trusted community locations for this audience.  With this information in hand, a new and culturally appropriate campaign was created specifically for the Hispanic market, which also included extensive community relations and outreach efforts in response to the needs uncovered in research.  

Our team was then brought on board again to implement an inclusive program to promote marijuana prevention among at-risk youth.  Understanding the importance of key influencers in an individual’s behavior, we have been partnering with school districts across the state to train teachers, school liaisons, and counselors. Moreover, we provided English and Spanish workshops to parents on how to approach and talk to their children regarding retail marijuana and prevent its consumption.

Additionally, in 2018, we expanded our efforts among other hard-to-reach communities, initiating extensive research with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) communities, as we gear up to develop and implement our outreach among LGBTQ youth who are at a disproportionately higher risk of marijuana use.

This community-based approach proved a success from day one and during the first three months of the program, we trained over 200 parents and distributed information to another 1,500.  As part of this project, we are also establishing a supportive neighborhoods model to motivate and enroll parents to become ambassadors and reach out to others in their neighborhoods.

Key to our success in this project have been collaborative efforts with other grantees, community organizations, school districts and key stakeholders who share best practices, disseminate collateral materials and suggest workshop improvements to ensure consistency and success of the program during each implementation.