If it looks like Joe Camel, and quacks like Joe Camel, it is Joe Camel

Maine is not the only state facing likely marijuana legalization ballot initiatives.  Indeed this year in 2015, voters in Ohio will be voting on an initiative to legalize marijuana in their state.  The pro-pot group that is behind that initiative is ResponsibleOhio, and this week they unveiled a new mascot for their initiative.  Buddie.  Here is what Buddie looks like:


Photo from ResponsibleOhio Facebook Page

Children advocates in Ohio are understandably outraged by the choice of mascot.  The legalization group claims that their target audience is the 21 and over millennials, but then why would they choose a caped super-hero as a mascot?  Jen Detwiler, spokeswoman of the group opposed to the initiative, agrees that the mascot is clearly intended to appeal to youth:

“ResponsibleOhio has placed a lot of emphasis on the 21 and over piece of their amendment but then comes out with a mascot styled after a superhero?” Detwiler said. “It’s a pretty shameless attempt to entice young people.”

Meanwhile, the marijuana industry has succeeded, again, in watering down marijuana regulations in Colorado.  There was a proposal to directly brand marijuana edibles in Colorado with a red stop sign, so they would be identifiable as marijuana edibles when they are out of the package.  Such branding is needed because when they are removed from packaging, may of the marijuana edibles look identical to their non-marijuana equivalents.  Unsurprisingly, the marijuana industry objected.

What were the complaints?  The chief argument is that a red stop sign would imply that the products are dangerous.  Guess what?  The products ARE dangerous.  If consuming your products means adults and children are being rushed to the emergency room, that, by definition, is danger.  That is exactly what we should be communicating with these warning labels on marijuana edibles.  What is truly misleading is implying that these products are benign and equivalent to non-marijuana edibles.  Short of food allergies, we don’t have tons of kids being rushed to ERs for eating regular gummy bears.  Nevertheless, the industry succeeded in getting their way and the symbol was changed to a much less obvious triangle which will not be required to be red.

These are just the latest examples of the clear intent on the part of the marijuana industry and legalization movement to normalize marijuana and appeal to youth.  Buddie is just Joe Camel in a cape.  Fighting warning labels for edibles is the same fight the tobacco industry has put up (and mostly won) over health warnings on traditional and new electronic tobacco products.  The marijuana industry knows, as the tobacco industry has known, that their profitability lies in getting the younger generations to consumer their addictive products.  They understand that the younger someone starts, the more likely they are to be addicted and to become a lifelong customer.  They have a lot to lose if younger generations are turned off to their products.  This is why we have seen, and will continue to see, a significant lack of responsibility on the part of the industry when it comes to regulations where marijuana has been legalized.  Two more cautionary tales and warning signs for Maine voters to consider as 2016 approaches.


Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

About Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C is a Certified Prevention Specialist and is the Director of Operations at AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, Inc. He currently serves on the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission as well as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council. Scott volunteers as the Chair of the marijuana policy education and advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine and is the current Board President of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling. Scott also serves as a Co-chair of the Prevention & Harm Reduction task force of the Maine Opiate Collaborative, the effort convened by U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty, II to address Maine's growing opiate and addiction crisis. Scott is the recipient of the 2015 Maine Public Health Association's Ruth S. Shaper Memorial Award and 2015 Healthy Androscoggin Will Bartlett Award and is also the 2013 recipient of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse Prevention Award.