Smart Colorado: Can You Spot the Pot?

Smart Colorado
Smart Colorado is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of Colorado youth as marijuana becomes increasingly available and commercialized.

Coloradans, who generally supported the legalization of marijuana, did not realize that the lack of regulation endangered the state’s youth. As rulemaking surrounding recreational marijuana progressed, it was critical to spotlight the fact that of over 300 marijuana edible products commercially available, most are virtually indistinguishable from their non-marijuana infused counterparts. This includes edibles that appeal to children, such as chocolate, gummy bears, lemon drops, rainbow belts, soda, and cookies.

Kick off a high-octane awareness campaign to alert Coloradans about the dangers of the lack of labeling on marijuana edibles and demonstrate the lack of visual difference between marijuana edibles and their kid-friendly counterparts. Smart Colorado implemented community outreach, earned media, paid media, and online/social media strategies to reach the community at public and school events, share messages in local and national media coverage, and drive web traffic to Smart Colorado’s educational website and social media accounts. This strategy included designing two Denver billboards that illustrated the similarity between normal candies and their marijuana-infused counterparts.

In just two short months, Smart Colorado earned more than $1.2 million in total earned publicity value during October and November, including reprints, and over 570 million potential readers and viewers in reach, thanks in part to appearances on the Today Show and Huffington Post, as well as pieces in The Wall Street Journal, USAToday, New York Times, and 17 additional media mentions. (Calculated by Cision-assigned publicity values, and total circulation and web viewers as listed by Cision software)

Smart Colorado members actively engaged the community at schools and city council meetings to share educational fact sheets and safety tips, and explain the key messages. Nearly 2,000 people visited Smart’s online edibles quiz based directly on the billboard images of marijuana-infused candy. Close to 17,000 Facebook users were reached. The lasting effect was that 79 percent of all web visitors in December 2014 were new to the Smart Colorado website.

In April 2014, a Quinnipiac poll in Colorado showed that voters favored legalizing marijuana 54 percent to 43percent. By September 2014, sentiment had shifted dramatically. A Suffolk poll indicated that 50.2 percent of voters now opposed the legalization of marijuana.  In fact, a November 2014 Gallup poll reported that only 51 percent of Americans still supported legalized marijuana, down from 58 percent in its poll from the previous year.  Here’s what Gallup cited in its poll for the drop in support nationally for the legalization of marijuana:

“More recently, Colorado has been in the news over the sale of marijuana-infused edibles — everything from brownies to gummy bears — and the risk they pose to children, possibly sparking public concern.”

In short, Smart Colorado transitioned from a social entrepreneurism project to a formidable force warning the country of the dangers of marijuana edibles, and the national go-to organization for reliable information about marijuana edibles.