California launches Mind Over Marijuana campaign to target use in youth


Hannah Saunders


Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced the “Mind Over Marijuana” campaign, which highlights the negative effects of cannabis use on youth’s mental health and development. 

The campaign includes messages on social media platforms, resources for speaking with youth about cannabis use, and provides parents with facts about the effects of cannabis use on developing brains. The 2020 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report states that about one in 10 adolescents ages 12 to 17 have used cannabis in the past year.


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“We’ve all struggled as the pandemic took away many of our social outlets,” Director Dr. Tomás Aragón said. “This was especially hard on teens, so our ultimate goal with this campaign is to help California adolescents develop healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors without turning to underage cannabis use. The Youth Cannabis Prevention Initiative and the new marijuana campaign aim to prevent underage cannabis use and promote mental wellness.” 

The campaign falls under the Youth Cannabis Prevention Initiative, with $12 million in funding annually. The initiative is designed to educate teens, parents, and guardians about the effects of cannabis use during the developmental period. 

The Youth Cannabis Prevention Initiative includes the California Cannabis Surveillance System, which is a public health data collection and analysis system for youth and adult cannabis use; the legal, social and environmental impacts; and health outcomes. Another component of the initiative is the Cannabis Education and Youth Prevention Program, which provides health education and prevention through state and local partnerships, and public awareness campaigns.

CDPH states that the campaign was created based on research and feedback from youth and parents who participated in focus groups throughout the state. Let’s Talk Cannabis is another component of the campaign, which provides tips, tools, and guidelines to assist parents and caregivers with talking to their kids about cannabis use. It consists of virtual and in-person events and educational toolkits containing material like conversation guides and fact sheets. 

Human brains develop and mature into one’s mid-twenties, and developing brains can be especially vulnerable to the negative effects of cannabis, according to CDPH. The department states that using cannabis frequently and at younger ages has shown to alter parts of the brain responsible for attention, decision-making, learning, memory, and motivation.

THC, or the chemical responsible for the psychological effects of cannabis, attaches to brain receptors which may impact portions of the brain that are responsible for creating memories, which may also cause forgetfulness. 

The campaign states that THC also binds to receptors that are responsible for controlling emotions, stress, anxiety, fear, and dopamine production. The campaign suggests managing stress in other forms, including exercising and getting fresh air; talking to a friend, parent, or counselor; journaling; taking breaks from social media; listening to happy tunes; and meditating. 

While additional research is needed, several studies indicate that cannabis use during youth lowers the likelihood of graduating high school, lowers school performance, creates challenges with memory, leads to greater risks of developing cannabis use disorder, and leads to higher rates of self-harm. 

Redheaded Blackbelt, a hyperlocal news organization, published CDPH’s press release about the campaign, where several commenters did not see youth cannabis use as harmful in comparison to other substances.

“It’s good news to me that cannabis is the most prevalent choice among youth,” said stage name The Real Brian. “Something will always be the most prevalent—bud is smarter than meth, tar, drink or horse tranquilizers.” 

Another commenter, under the stage name Truth Be Told offered suggestions to decrease youth cannabis use.

“Looks like another doomed-to-fail version of Just Say No. Does anyone think a billboard ever stopped a kid from burning a fatty?” Truth Be Told asked. “Instead of telling kids what they can’t do, make sure they have access to fun and enriching activities like music programs and sports. And individualized tutoring for those kids that struggle to keep up.”