Following marijuana legalization in Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) was tasked with designing and implementing a pilot health education campaign, “Stay True to You,” to increase awareness of marijuana’s potential negative health effects for youth and young adults. DHM, in partnership with the public relations firm Coates Kokes, worked with the OHA to develop effective and far-reaching campaign messages and materials.

Our research identified values and emotions meaningful to youth and young adults, used to deliver science-based messages about the risks of marijuana use. In total, we conducted twenty-eight focus groups with 260 teenagers and young adults in Portland, Bend, Medford, and Pendleton. These groups were conducted in English and Spanish and included participants from the African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, white, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Latino communities.

The pilot campaign was launched in five counties in June 2016. An independent evaluation found that the pilot campaign successfully raised awareness of the legal consequences of underage marijuana use and helped correct the perception that teen marijuana use is widespread. Media data showed that the campaign successfully reached more than 90% of youth and young adults in the pilot areas with a high level of exposure, consistent with standards for a fully implemented media campaign. Following the evaluation, the campaign was expanded statewide in July 2017.