NY’s State Sponsored Cannabis Education Programs: A Model for States with Legal Cannabis Regimes

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As more and more states move to legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis use and business, the education of the masses is usually left on the back-burner as governments push toward permitting and licensing businesses rather than conducting community outreach and providing cannabis education programs to the public. While states like California and Washington have educational components on their state licensing websites, the State of New York has upped the game by launching a public health education campaign to ensure cannabis education information actually reaches its residents. 

Specifically, on April 4, 2022, the State of New York launched a cannabis education campaign called “Cannabis Conversations” to help its residents learn about the state’s relatively new cannabis laws. The campaign is made up of three phases. The first phase includes public service advertisements placed on television, radio, billboards, transit, and social media in an effort to reach as many residents of New York as possible. The advertisements in the first phase of the campaign will be primarily 30-second messages that highlight:

  1. New York’s legalization of cannabis for adults 21 years of age or older, 
  2. The dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis, 
  3. Secondhand smoke concerns, and 
  4. The proper storage of cannabis and cannabis products. 

According to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, with the “Cannabis Conversations” campaign, the State is “following through on [its] commitment to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to safely navigate the new Cannabis Law”. Recognizing education as the best tool to keep New Yorkers informed and healthy as the government ramps up licensing and operations, Governor Hochul ensured New Yorkers that campaign messages and content will be offered in both English and Spanish in an effort to ensure the industry and the education about it is safe, inclusive, and equitable. 

Public service advertisements began running on April 4, 2022 and will run for approximately three (3) months. Details about the final two phases of the educational program have not yet been released but will likely be launched later this Spring. The new “Cannabis Conversations” campaign piggy backs off of New York’s Office of Cannabis Management’s (“OCM”) first public outreach effort about cannabis, also called “Cannabis Conversations”, which focused on virtual outreach meetings and the publication of OCM’s Cannabis Conversations website

Unlike many states that have legalized medical and/or recreational cannabis, New York is taking a proactive approach to educating its residents about their rights and obligations under the state’s new cannabis law. Such an open and honest dialogue will surely lead to more residents understanding what they can and cannot do and how they can or cannot do it. Perhaps other states will follow New York’s lead of treating cannabis regulation and information as a public health issue rather than a stigmatized topic that must be avoided. Kudos to the State of New York for its forward-thinking cannabis education program and moving conversations about cannabis out of the shadows.

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