Seattle Launches Pot-Prevention Effort Aimed at Teens

More than two years after Washington legalized marijuana, community groups in Seattle are launching a citywide effort aimed at preventing use of marijuana and other drugs by teens.

The campaign, with support from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, aims to spread positive messages that most kids don’t use drugs or alcohol. The messages, which also ask parents to talk to their kids about marijuana, are being displayed on nine billboards around the city, some of them donated by Clear Channel Outdoor.

After announcing the campaign at Aki Kurose Middle School in south Seattle on Wednesday, City Attorney Pete Holmes called the effort “an antidote to the fear-based messaging of the war on drugs.” He contrasted it with an anti-marijuana youth campaign in Colorado, which told teens that if legal pot’s an experiment, “Don’t be a lab rat.” That effort featured oversized rat cages placed outside parks, libraries and schools – a bit too reminiscent of jail cells for Holmes’ taste.

In Seattle, organizers are asking students to take part in their “Above the Influence” contest, including taking selfies showing what inspires them not to use drugs or alcohol. Prizes include Seattle Seahawks and Sounders tickets.

Last June and July, as the state’s first licensed pot shops were preparing to open, the Department of Health scraped together $400,000 from other programs to run a statewide radio and online campaign targeting parents. But this is the first effort aimed at youth in Seattle since Initiative 502 passed.

Meanwhile, a newly published University of Washington study suggests further public messaging about the state’s marijuana law might be warranted: Just 57 percent of parents in a small, ongoing survey of 115 low-income families in Tacoma knew that 21 is the legal age for recreational pot use, and just 63 percent knew that growing marijuana at home isn’t allowed.

The study found 71 percent of 10th graders knew the legal age, but fewer than half knew the legal limit for marijuana possession – up to an ounce of dried bud.

The legal-pot law itself directs some tax revenues from legal marijuana sales to prevention efforts, but Health Department spokesman Donn Moyer said the state hasn’t yet disbursed money to the agency for that purpose.

Mike Graham-Squire, a manager at the social services organization Neighborhood House, said the Seattle campaign has so far totaled $60,000, including $15,000 from the city. They are looking for additional sponsors.

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