“Stay True to You” urges teens to ask questions about marijuana’s impact

Black teen with nose ring in bus looking out window smiling Stay True To You

Quick Summary

Everyone in Oregon—especially young people and the people who care about them—deserve the whole story about youth marijuana use. Oregon Health Authority’s youth marijuana prevention campaign “Stay True to You” shows, through testimonial videos by people in their 20s and 30s who used pot when they were younger, that weed affects everyone differently.

I’m proud of the Oregon Health Authority’s youth marijuana prevention campaign—“Stay True to You”—because it respects the kids and young people whom it aims to reach.

In videos and on social media, on billboards and at shopping malls, and at staytruetoyou.org, this pilot campaign in five Oregon counties has been careful to not overstate what the science says about marijuana’s potential impact on developing brains.

What the science does say is already worthy of our attention:

  • Brain development isn’t complete until your twenties. Using pot while you’re young can get in the way of reaching your full potential.
  • When you get high, you may have difficulty learning, memory issues and lower math and reading scores. The more you get high, the harder it may be to learn.

Real-life experiences

“Stay True to You” also shows, through testimonial videos by people in their 20s and 30s who used pot when they were younger, that weed affects everyone differently. For kids and teens watching on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, staytruetoyou.org, or between trailers at their local movie theaters, I hope these real-life stories are triggering important questions and conversations:

How would using weed when you’re young affect your brain? How could the legal and social consequences of underage pot use affect your plans for the future?

Everyone in Oregon—especially young people and the parents, educators and other adults who care about them—deserves the whole story about youth marijuana use. Only then can they make informed decisions for themselves, now that recreational pot is legal for adults 21 and older, highly accessible and aggressively marketed in our state. This “Stay True to You” message applies also to other drugs, including alcohol, the abuse of which has caused severe and lasting damage to individuals, families and Oregon communities.

Awareness growing—but we can do more

In a progress report to the Oregon Legislature, campaign evaluators noted that after its first five months, the pilot version of “Stay True to You” made young people more aware of the legal consequences of underage pot use. It’s also made them more aware that when it comes to weed, everybody isn’t doing it. In fact, four out of five high school juniors in Oregon don’t use marijuana, according to a statewide survey that students take anonymously.

During the 2017 fiscal year (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017), the State of Oregon received more than $70 million in revenue from state marijuana sales taxes. But we can’t just take the money and run. It’s important to acknowledge that there likely will be consequences for all of us, young or old, whether we use pot or not—for example, more impaired drivers on our roads, and a greater need for drug treatment programs. Are we prepared to handle these challenges?

The “Stay True to You” pilot campaign is expanding to reach young people, ages 12 to 20, statewide. But when it comes to underage pot use, even effective marketing can’t give teens and young adults all the support they need to navigate these new waters.

We need to provide additional tools and maintain local control for communities across our state, so they can protect their own kids and teens—similar to the way Oregon supports the dozens of cities and towns working to keep young people from using cigarettes and other tobacco products. Statewide, policies are needed to track marijuana advertising, limit marketing and promotion, and prohibit the sale of flavored products.

Tell us what you think

As any glance at Stay True to You on Facebook will tell you, this is a topic that gets young people talking. I hope the kids in your life will join in.

Explore the videos, facts and resources on staytruetoyou.org. Check out the companion campaign designed for parents, caregivers, educators and coaches, called Talk with Them. Scroll through our Instagram feed. Or start a discussion below.

Whatever platform you choose, take a moment to let me and others around the state know how you Stay True to You.

Megan Gerdes, MPH, is a health promotion strategist for the Oregon Health Authority’s Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention section.


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