New York residents will be seeing cannabis-themed television commercials, subway advertisements, and billboards with the launch of a cannabis public education campaign announced by Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday. The Cannabis Conversations campaign, which is scheduled to run over the next three months, is designed to remind New Yorkers of the risks of driving impaired by cannabis, provide parents with tools to protect young people, and spread other messages related to the legalization of cannabis.
The governor’s office noted that last year’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) that legalized cannabis in New York is focused on public health and was developed to support the principles of safety, social justice, and economic development. As part of this shift in public policy, the MRTA includes provisions mandating public education campaigns to inform New Yorkers about the new law and its impact on health and safety.
“With the ‘Cannabis Conversations’ campaign, we’re following through on our commitment to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to safely navigate the new Cannabis Law,” Hochul said in a statement. “Education is the best tool to keep New Yorkers healthy as we continue to ramp up this safe, inclusive, and equitable industry.”
The education campaign from New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will consist of messages in English and Spanish distributed through television commercials, radio spots, transit ads, social media posts and billboards. Monday’s launch includes the release of a 30-second spot highlighting New York’s legalization of cannabis for adults 21 and older, the importance of not driving under the influence, and the need to securely store cannabis away from children and pets.
“‘Cannabis Conversations’ is our first public health campaign as we make sure New Yorkers have the initial information they need to stay safe and healthy. We have learned from other states and are excited to amplify these important messages across the State,” said Cannabis Control Board chair Tremaine Wright. “Meanwhile, we’re hard at work building this new industry, and as it continues to evolve, so, too, will our public education efforts with future campaigns tackling a growing range of health and safety messaging.”
Program Started with Community Outreach
The new program builds on the original Cannabis Conversations campaign featuring a series of virtual community outreach events hosted by Wright in January and February. The series featured 10 events focused on different regions of the state and one statewide event in Spanish.
Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the cannabis reform advocacy group the Drug Policy Alliance, said that it “is essential for New York’s Cannabis Conversation campaign to establish statewide literacy of our new cannabis policy.”
“New Yorkers have experienced decades of prohibition, disparate enforcement, and with increasing intensity misinformation. The Office of Cannabis Management was created to serve as a central hub for cannabis policy and information,” added Frederique. “It is our hope that this is only the beginning of the state’s robust public education that not only teaches people what the law is, but includes considerations around consumption, how to become an entrepreneur, and where to get help if you need it.”
Additional messages in the Cannabis Conversations campaign will be released over the next three months. Sarah Ravenhall, executive director of the New York State Association of County Health Officials, said that she is encouraged to see that the governor and the OCM are taking public health and health equity seriously as the state prepares for the full implementation of legalized cannabis.
“There are health risks associated with cannabis use that require sound policy to mitigate, and the governor’s ‘Cannabis Conversations’ Campaign is a clear indication that this administration supports a thoughtful and careful approach to cannabis policy,” said Ravenhall. “We look forward to working with the state to monitor the program’s public health impact and to continue to find new ways to ensure New York has the safest program possible.”