Colorado’s New Marijuana Message: Don’t Be A Maureen Dowd

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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The backers of Colorado’s historic marijuana legalization initiative unveiled a new “consume responsibly” educational campaign this week, using New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd as the poster child for why inexperienced pot users should take it slow with edibles.

The campaign features a billboard with a red-haired woman, clearly meant to be Dowd, sitting in a hotel room with her head in her hands.

“Don’t let a candy bar ruin your vacation,” it reads. “With edibles, start low and go slow.”

Dowd famously ate too much of a marijuana-laden candy bar that was meant to be split into 16 doses, although nothing on the packaging warned her of that. She wrote a column about her unpleasant experience, in which she said she went into an eight-hour “hallucinatory state.”

The column was mocked in some circles as being too hysterical, while others used it to demonstrate the flaws how pot-infused food products are regulated in Colorado.

Mason Tvert, the spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which launched the new campaign, said Dowd’s column at least provoked a debate about the need for inexperienced users to approach pot edibles with caution.

“Her column has raised awareness around the issue of marijuana consumer safety,” Tvert told The Daily Beast. “It brought this issue to the attention of a lot of people who had not heard of it previously.”

The new campaign is markedly different in tone from those being promoted by the state government. One features giant rat cages placed in public areas, warning young people not to be “lab rats” in the emerging science of marijuana’s effect on developing brains. The campaign has been criticized as an extension of “just say no”-type campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s. Some communities and school districts have banned the campaign, saying it sends an inappropriate message and isn’t likely to curb teen use.

Another effort aimed at preventing stoned driving depicts marijuana smokers as prone to accidents and stupid mistakes when they’re high, warning them not to get behind the wheel

The MPP campaign is aimed at education, Tvert said, without the insulting stereotypes.

“[Anti-marijuana] campaigns have been characterized by fear mongering, misinformation, and derision, and they have not made anyone safer,” he said in a statement. “Like most Americans, Ms. Dowd has probably seen countless silly anti-marijuana ads on TV, but she never saw one that highlights the need to ‘start low and go slow’ when consuming marijuana edibles.”

For her part, Dowd doesn’t seem to mind that her marijuana misadventure is highlighted on a billboard.

“I love the billboard,” she said in an email to The Daily Beast. “I’m going to make it my Christmas card.”

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