Online Advertising of Marijuana Use


An article recently published in Prevention Science explored the online advertising of recreational marijuana use.  A total of 146 recreational marijuana retailers in Colorado and Washington were examined on Weedmaps, a popular website that markets marijuana retailers.   

Results showed that many retailers had no security measure to determine age (41% in Colorado, 35% in Washington).  In addition, approximately 61% of retailers in Colorado and 44% in Washington made health claims about the benefits of marijuana.  These included anxiety reduction, treatment of depression, insomnia, and pain/inflammation. 

From my perspective, this study’s findings highlight two problems with current online advertising of recreational marijuana use.  First, safeguards are not fully in place to protect youth from accessing ads promoting the recreational use of marijuana on the internet.   

Second, a number of health benefits are being attributed to the use of marijuana which may not be scientifically proven, and could therefore mislead potential customers that cannabis use provides some health benefits that it does not. 

Based on these findings, I make two recommendations to protect American youth and consumers.  One, marijuana retailers should immediately implement internet safeguards to protect youth from accessing information online that promotes marijuana use.  Two, all advertising by marijuana retailers that imply health claims should include sound scientific evidence supporting those claims.  

These changes could come about voluntarily by the retail marijuana industry, or by greater government oversight.  Regardless, they are needed quickly to protect youth and consumers who access online marijuana advertising, as well in all future advertising by the retail marijuana industry.        

Read the study here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11121-016-0702-z

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