NOV 25, 2019 7:17 AM PST

When Marijuana is Legal, Teens See Cannabis Ads

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Despite federal policies in place to restrict marijuana marketing to individuals under 21 years old, an overwhelming majority of teenagers are still exposed to such campaigns, a new study shows. The survey’s results suggest that restrictive policies need to tighten up in order to reduce the exposure of marijuana marketing to vulnerable populations.

Researchers recently conducted an online survey of 469 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 in four states where recreational marijuana is legal: California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington. They asked the participants about their social media use, marijuana use, and exposure to marijuana marketing. Almost all (94%) of survey respondents reported seeing marijuana marketing in some shape or form.

Not surprisingly, teens who completed the survey were more likely to have been exposed to marijuana marketing via social media than via billboards. However, exposure to both was high; 73% saw marijuana advertisements on billboards and 79% on social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

While apparently not very effective, restrictions do exist on paid advertising for cannabis on social media. Recreational marijuana may be legal in certain states under state law, but the drug is still illegal on a federal level. Federal regulations prevent cannabis companies from running marijuana marketing campaigns regardless of the state’s specific policies on the use of the drug.

Marijuana marketing restrictions mirror those of alcohol; the sale of either to anyone under 21 is illegal across the country. Thus, cannabis companies are restricted from using a platform like social media for marketing purposes, as the audience contains a significant amount of individuals under 21 years old.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have independent regulations prohibiting marijuana ads, but loopholes exist. So far, these social media platforms cannot prevent cannabis companies from creating social media profiles and interacting with other users to promote products.

Researchers associated with the study conclude that there need to be stricter policies on online cannabis marketing “combined with an accountability and enforcement infrastructure.” Studies show that marijuana marketing on social media is linked with marijuana use by teenagers.

Medical use of marijuana is legal in 33 states, four United States territories, and Washington D.C. Recreational use of marijuana is legal in 11 states, Washington D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. A further 15 states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized activity associated with cannabis.

Sources: University of Massachusetts Amherst, Journal of Adolescent Health, Washington Post

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog:
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