PORTLAND, Ore. — Even as Oregon dials in its recreational marijuana program, it's also ramping up an ad campaign to keep kids and teens away from the drug.
The campaign is called Stay True to You and teen focus groups helped shape the message. The Oregon Health Authority says it's not an anti pot campaign — it's about showing kids how pot can affect their life now, and why it's better to wait to try it.
"I think it's a great message," said Portlander Bryan Lewis as he stood looking at giant billboard on Southest 14th at Washington. "Younger persons brains aren't fully developed."
As more recreational pot shops get licensed, state ramps up marijuana awareness program aimed at teens with a modern message pic.twitter.com/me6GE9HZFl— Nina Mehlhaf (@NinaMehlhaf) October 3, 2016
The billboard reads "This job matters. Pot could mess that up" and shows a picture of a young lady wearing an apron in a restaurant.
The Oregon Health Authority says it's more powerful to young people to hear how a drug will affect them now and in the future, than just telling them not to try it.
Lewis agrees it's a good tactic.
"I know as a kid, it was shoved down my throat, drinking and smoking pot is bad, so of course what did I want to do? I wanted to go out and I wanted to try it," he said. "I think kids nowadays are a lot smarter. They see the information that's out there. I didn't have that when I was younger."
The campaign, which costs the state $4 million, is getting a good response.
"The DARE program never really worked in the 1980s," said Shayla Lugo, visiting from Massachusetts, where they'll be voting on their own legal marijuana measure this November. "It was because it was, 'Just Say No.'
"If you're talking to kids and teens about not doing drugs, you really need to have some reasons to back up what you're saying," Lugo said.
For everyone else 21 and over, marijuana is now easier to get, and cheaper. Kind Heart Collective in North Portland's Kenton neighborhood is among 21 stores to get the first recreational sales licenses this weekend.
The OLCC says about 160 more will get theirs by the end of the year. It's also when medical dispensaries will have to stop selling recreationally if they don't have a license.
Co-owner Robert Reyes says that could balance out the marketplace in Portland.
"Reverting back like that could be a big step for a lot of dispensaries," Reyes said. "I think it's going to create a lot of competition and ultimately I see a lot of dispensaries exiting the market based on that."
The license is a lucrative advantage. Stores with a license can now sell a customer four times as much dried pot as before, 28 grams versus seven grams. In addition, taxes will drop from 25 percent to 17 percent.
Then there's the packaging.
Kid-friendly names of marijuana strains like Girl Scout Cookies, Grape Ape, Cinderella, Smurf and Bubblelicious, among others, can no longer be printed on labels. In all, about 20 names of pot were singled out by the OLCC as too enticing to kids. So their names will have to be abbreviated or initialed.
"I had already been thinking about that," Reyes said in his shop. "If it's Girl Scout Cookies, then it would GSC on the label. We'll get accustomed to hearing that as well. That shouldn't be too big of an issue."
Unlike Washington's program, there is no cap on how many of these licenses will be handed out. Right now, there are more pot shops than Starbucks in Oregon. Who has and doesn't have this license could change that.