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WIRE: Oregon Health Authority offers tips for talking to youth about marijuana

OREGON — A new education campaign the Oregon Health Authority has launched is offering parents and educators evidence-based tips and tools that help them communicate with youth about the risks of marijuana use.

The parent campaign, called “Talk With Them,” represents an additional component of the Youth Marijuana Use Prevention Pilot Campaign that OHA launched in July. The youth-focused part of the campaign, known as “Stay True To You,” attempts to increase awareness among those younger than 21 about how recreational marijuana use might affect their health and their life, now and in the future. Both the parent and youth campaigns were built from extensive research into the questions, attitudes and concerns of kids themselves.

OHA developed the parent campaign to reach an audience of parents, teachers and youth-serving adults who are influential with young people in the target audience—Oregon youth ages 12 to 20. The campaign encourages these adults to start and continue conversations with youth in their life about marijuana, and is centered around a publication, “Preventing Underage Marijuana Use—Parents’ Guide to Talking with Your Kids,” found on the campaign website http://www.talkwiththem.info, and the Spanish version http://www.hablaconellos.info.

After Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana, the state Legislature passed HB 4014 and SB 1597, which provides OHA with $3.97 million to develop, pilot and evaluate a youth marijuana use prevention campaign in a rural and urban area of the state. Legislative intent guided OHA in choosing the Portland metro area (Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties) and Southern Oregon (Josephine and Jackson counties) as the locations for this pilot campaign. OHA is partnering on the parent campaign with Multnomah County, which has supported the campaign to reach the Spanish-language audience with greater intensity.

Parent campaign advertisements are appearing in the following media venues:

  • TV spots in English and Spanish
  • Radio in Spanish only
  • Digital advertisements
  • Transit ads on TriMet in English and Spanish

OHA developed the parent campaign using extensive audience research and focus groups. More than 40 parents, middle and high school teachers, and school administrators or board members participated in focus group sessions or key informant interviews held in Portland, Medford and Bend.

“A major theme among parents and educators in the focus groups is that they have many questions about marijuana, including the short- and long-term health effects of marijuana use for children, whose brains are still developing,” said Kati Moseley, OHA policy specialist. “Educators also are very aware that children receive mixed messages about marijuana use, creating a challenge in how to engage students effectively and be seen as credible.”

Other findings from the focus groups:

  • Parents want to know how to start the conversation, and how to keep it going. Parents asked about how to have the conversation with their child after a child already has used marijuana.
  • Parents want information on clear negative consequences of marijuana use, long-term health effects, and navigating peer pressure. This helps them have better conversations with their children.
  • Parents are particularly concerned about children’s access to edibles and the potential for children to inadvertently ingest dangerous levels of THC. They also worry about how attractive edibles look to children.

OHA has contracted RMC Research to evaluate the Youth Marijuana Use Prevention Pilot Campaign with a mid-point evaluation in November 2016 and a final evaluation in May 2017. OHA will provide a report to the Legislature by January 1, 2017.

OHA also produced a YouTube video featuring Moseley explaining the parent campaign.

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