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Ads linked to marijuana usage among adolescents

May 17, 2018
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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A study released Thursday by the RAND Corporation finds adolescents who view more advertising for medical marijuana are more likely to use marijuana and have positive views about the drug.

The study, which was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, tracked the viewing of medical marijuana ads by more than 6,500 adolescents from 2010 to 2017. The students, all recruited from three Southern California middle schools, were ethnically diverse and reported marijuana use at the outset of the study at rates similar to adolescents nationally.

Among the findings of the study:

  • Adolescents who reported greater exposure to medical marijuana advertising were more likely to report having used marijuana within the past 30 days and were more likely to say they expected to use in the next six months.
  • Medical marijuana advertising significantly increased over the course of the seven-year study. In 2010, 25% of adolescents reported seeing a medical marijuana ad within the prior three months. That figure climbed 70% by 2017.
  • Viewing more medical marijuana ads was linked to having more positive views of the drug, but adolescents who viewed more such ads also reported more negative consequences of marijuana use, such as missing school, impaired concentration, and engaging in regrettable behaviors.

To date, 29 states and Washington D.C. have approved medical marijuana sales and nine states have approved recreational marijuana sales.

“As more states legalize marijuana for medical or recreational uses, we must think carefully about the best ways to regulate advertising so that we can decrease the chances of harm occurring, particularly for adolescents,” RAND researcher Elizabeth D’Amico, the study’s lead author, said in a news release.


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