Alaska teams up with local marijuana shops in new cannabis warning campaign

Published: Sep. 12, 2017 at 10:29 PM AKDT
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A new state-funded campaign is warning Alaskans about the potential dangers of legal marijuana-use.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is expected to launch a TV spot in October as part of its Responsible Consumer campaign. The TV commercial highlights two retail marijuana shop owners who explain “with cannabis, there is no legal limit to driving.”

“The Responsible Consumer campaign is meant to educate Alaskans who are thinking of using marijuana, or who are using marijuana, on some of the pointers of responsible consumption,” said Regina McConkey with the Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention.

The campaign also includes print ads explaining the effects of marijuana use on adolescent brains and urges consumers of edible marijuana to “know your limits.” The posters will be offered to marijuana shop owners to hang in their stores.

McConkey said she hopes the message, sent from people within the marijuana industry, will better resonate within the targeted audience.

“Every state that has legalized marijuana for recreational use has had education efforts and prevention efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts that can happen as a direct result of legalization,” said McConkey.

The new ads are in stark contrast to a currently-running campaign organized by the Alaska Highway Safety Office (AHSO.) The state agency partnered with the Alaska Department of Transportation to release a number of broadcast, radio, print and Facebook ads with the slogan “Drive high, get a DUI.”

According to the AHSO TV ad, “Since 2008, one-third of Alaska's driving deaths have been attributed to drugs, and drug-related DUIs are on the rise.” With a burning joint underneath the words, the commercial implies marijuana use is behind an increase in drug-related DUI’s from 170 DUIs in 2015 to 183 DUIs in 2016.

The commercial does not cite where those statistics originate. When the AHSO was questioned about the statistics, office manager Tammy Kramer said the information comes from federal Fatality Analysis Report data. She deferred questions about the specific wording of the ad to the marketing agency behind the commercial, Walsh Sheppard.

After multiple calls, an official with Walsh Sheppard did not follow through with providing further information about the ad as of Tuesday evening.

There’s no specific category in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report that specifies drug-related DUIs. The Anchorage Police Department said municipal code prevents them from differentiating between alcohol-related DUI arrests and marijuana-related DUI arrests.

The AHSO ad campaign is being paid for through federal money that’s expected to run out by the end of September.

The DHSS ad campaign is funded through money within the state’s Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention. Its ads are planned to run from October to December.