DENVER — Taking a cheeky jab at a New York Times columnist who had a bad experience with marijuana-infused candy on a visit to Colorado, pro-pot activists launched a campaign urging adults to “consume responsibly” in states where the drug is legal.

The Marijuana Policy Project, the largest U.S. pot policy organization, opened the drive on Wednesday in Colorado, which, along with Washington state, allows recreational weed sales to adults under a highly regulated and taxed system.

Since the first stores opened this year, much of the public debate has focused on marijuana-infused edibles such as chocolates and cookies, given their potential to attract children and pot novices with potentially dangerous consequences.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recounted in June how an “innocent” looking candy bar left her “panting and paranoid” at her Denver hotel and convinced she had died. She said she later learned she had eaten several times the recommended dose.

Alluding to Dowd’s column, the Washington, D.C.-based MPP unveiled a billboard in Denver that shows a distressed woman sitting in a gloomy hotel room, alongside the slogan: “Don’t let a candy bar ruin your vacation. With edibles, start low and go slow.”

It also directs people to a website,, which features information on marijuana products, their effects, including how to prevent over- and accidental consumption, and the laws surrounding them.

MPP communications director Mason Tvert said that for decades, marijuana education campaigns had been characterized by exaggeration, fear mongering and condescension.

“They have not made anyone smarter or safer,” he said.

“Like most Americans, Ms. Dowd has probably seen countless silly anti-marijuana ads on TV but she has never seen one that highlights the need to ‘start low and go slow’ when choosing to consume marijuana edibles.”

The campaign also will include print and online ads, as well as materials in retail marijuana stores.

MPP plans to roll out its campaign in Colorado and Washington, and then in other states if they adopt similar laws. Marijuana initiatives will be on ballots in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia in the fall.

The idea of responsible consumption was questioned by substance abuse and addiction expert Janina Kean, who said it was futile to try to urge it upon those with a propensity toward an addictive disorder, or those suffering from addiction.

“The legislature in Colorado put greed before safety and failed to set any real standards,” said Kean, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut-based High Watch Recovery Center, a medical facility that treats substance use disorders. “How do you gauge what qualifies as responsible use? Based on what measures?”