There's a difference between downing a beer and a round of tequila shots. And the Marijuana Policy Project wants you to know there's also a difference between smoking a joint and eating a cannabis chocolate bar.
The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group launched an ad campaign Wednesday aimed at educating people how to consume marijuana responsibly -- especially pot tourists headed for Colorado.
The blitz includes a billboard in downtown Denver that depicts a distraught woman in a hotel room. It reads: "Don't let a candy bar ruin your vacation. With edibles, start low and go slow."
The plea is a not-so-subtle dig at New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who unwittingly became the poster child for pot-eating rookie mistakes. Thinking her marijuana candy bar wasn't working, she decided to eat more and more inside a Denver hotel room, resulting in lines such as: "I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours" and "I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing."
It wasn't her fault, said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports wider access to legal pot. Americans are still new to edibles and haven't been told how to handle it, he said.
"People just aren't informed," Tvert said. "And it's because marijuana has been illegal and kept in the shadows for so long."
The group says its campaign will cost at least $75,000 and is largely centered in Colorado with the billboard, pamphlets and magazine ads. They expect it to expand wherever marijuana is legal. The campaign also includes a website called ConsumeResponsibly.org where it explains marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington state and describes how much more potent eating marijuana is than smoking it.
The group is encouraging consumers not to consume marijuana and drive. It's also urging users to lock up their stash of weed to keep it from children.
The campaign comes as states are increasingly looking at how to regulate and gauge marijuana-impaired driving and critics are warning of the growing risk of children gaining access to the drug.
Tvert said his group took the campaign on because government agencies have failed to create credible education programs. He cited the Colorado Department of Transportation's string of commercials urging smokers not to drive by showing stoners doing things like dropping TVs and futilely trying to light a grill.
"If your targets are users, having your campaign centered on calling them idiots is not going to be very effective," Tvert said.
Follow @dhpierson for more marijuana news.