Marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in 10 states and Washington DC while a total of 34 states have implemented varying degrees of medical marijuana. The commercialization of marijuana has been accompanied by a proliferation of false claims regarding the therapeutic potential of marijuana, which are popularized by several different information sources. To date, no study has examined where US adults get their information regarding marijuana.
To determine the sources of information associated with believing unsupported claims about marijuana.
Probability-based online survey
16,820 adults, with a response rate of about 55% (N = 9003)
Most influential sources of information about marijuana and belief of statements consistent with misinformation, for example, smoking marijuana has preventative health benefits, secondhand marijuana smoke or use during pregnancy is completely or somewhat safe, and marijuana is not at all addictive.
There were 9003 respondents (response rate 55%). Forty-three percent believed unsupported claims about marijuana. The most influential sources of information were health professionals, traditional media, friends/relatives, and social media/internet. Individuals reporting social media or the Internet (1.46 CI [1.30, 1.64]), the marijuana industry (e.g., advertisements, dispensaries) (2.88 CI [2.15, 3.88]), and friends or relatives (1.41 CI[1.26, 1.58]) as the most influential source of information about marijuana were more likely to believe any statement consistent with misinformation about marijuana in comparison with those who reported other sources as most influential.
Individuals reporting the most significant source of information regarding marijuana was from social media or the Internet, the marijuana industry, or friends or relatives were more likely to believe unsupported claims about marijuana. Public health campaigns to counter the misinformation about marijuana to the public are needed.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Dataset is available from corresponding author on request 1 year after publication.
Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, Goldstein RB, Chou SP, Zhang H, et al. Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry 2015; 72(12):1235–42. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858
Global overview of drug demand and supply. In: World drug report 2018. New York: United Nations; 2018:11–12. https://doi.org/10.18356/3a4c2e67-en.
Compton WM, Han B, Jones CM, Blanco C, Hughes A. Marijuana use and use disorders in adults in the USA, 2002-14: analysis of annual cross-sectional surveys. Lancet Psychiatry 2016; 3(10):954–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(16)30208-5
Spackman E, Haines-Saah R, Danthurebandara VM, Dowsett LE, Noseworthy T, Clement FM. Marijuana use and perceptions of risk and harm: A survey among Canadians in 2016. Healthcare policy = Politiques de sante. 2017;13(1):17–27.
Forbes. Legal Cannabis Industry Poised for Big Growth, In North America And Around The World. Accessed at https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomaspellechia/2018/03/01/double-digit-billions-puts-north-america-in-the-worldwide-cannabis-market-lead/#48bd82d66510 on 13 June 2019.
Business Insider. 21 medical benefits of marijuana. Accessed at https://www.businessinsider.com/facts-on-marijuana-and-health-2015-4#weed-can-be-used-to-treat-glaucoma-1 on 13 June 2019.
WebMD. Medical Marijuana FAQ. Accessed at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/medical-marijuana-faq on 13 June 2019.
Business Insider. 23 health benefits of marijuana. Accessed at http://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-2014-4 on 13 June 2019.
Keyhani, S., Steigerwald, S., Ishida, J., Vali, M., Cerdá, M., Hasin, D., ... & Cohen, B. (2018). Risks and benefits of marijuana use. Ann Intern Med, 169, 282–290.
Wen, H., Hockenberry, J. M., & Druss, B. G. The effect of medical marijuana laws on marijuana-related attitude and perception among U.S. adolescents and young adults. Prev Sci, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-018-0903-8.
Business Insider. Business Insider (now “Insider Inc.”) had a great year in 2017. Accessed at https://www.businessinsider.com/business-insider-employees-revenue-subscribers-2018-2 on 13 June 2019.
Pletcher MJ, Vittinghoff E, Kalhan R, et al. Association Between Marijuana Exposure and Pulmonary Function Over 20 Years. JAMA. 2012;307(2):173–181. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2011.1961
The Cannabist. “A watershed 4/20.” U.S. cannabis market poised to hit $25B by 2025: report. Accessed at https://www.thecannabist.co/2018/04/20/cannabis-market-25-billion/103953/ on 13 June 2019.
Adweek. The Cannabis Industry Is Still Fighting for Legitimacy on Social Media Platforms. Accessed at http://www.adweek.com/digital/the-cannabis-industry-is-still-fighting-for-legitimacy-on-social-media-platforms/ on 13 June 2019.
Schmidt, L. A., Jacobs, L. M., & Spetz, J. Young People’s More Permissive Views About Marijuana: Local Impact of State Laws or National Trend? Am J Public Health, 2016;106(8), 1498–1503. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303153.
Yu J, Nagler RH, Fowler EF, Kerlikowske K, Gollust SE. Women’s Awareness and Perceived Importance of the Harms and Benefits of Mammography Screening: Results From a 2016 National Survey. JAMA Intern Med 2017;177(9):1381–2.
Tomlinson T, De Vries R, Ryan K, Kim HM, Lehpamer N, Kim SY. Moral concerns and the willingness to donate to a research biobank. JAMA. 2015;313(4):417–9.
Bleakley A, Jordan AB, Hennessy M. The relationship between parents’ and children’s television viewing. Pediatrics. 2013;132(2):e364–71.
McAfee T, Davis KC, Alexander RL, Jr., Pechacek TF, Bunnell R. Effect of the first federally funded US antismoking national media campaign. Lancet. 2013;382(9909):2003–11.
Hanauer DA, Zheng K, Singer DC, Gebremariam A, Davis MM. Public awareness, perception, and use of online physician rating sites. JAMA. 2014;311(7):734–5.
Fowler FJ, Jr., Gerstein BS, Barry MJ. How patient centered are medical decisions?: Results of a national survey. JAMA Intern Med 2013;173(13):1215–21.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 2017. https://doi.org/10.17226/24625
Glantz SA, Halpern-Felsher B, Springer ML. Marijuana, Secondhand Smoke, and Social Acceptability. JAMA Intern Med 2018; 178(1):13–4. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.5301
Mittleman, M. A., Lewis, R. A., Maclure, M., Sherwood, J. B., & Muller, J. E. (2001). Triggering myocardial infarction by marijuana. Circulation, 103(23), 2805–2809.
Wang, X., Derakhshandeh, R., Liu, J., Narayan, S., Nabavizadeh, P., Le, S., ... & Sievers, R. E. (2016). One minute of marijuana secondhand smoke exposure substantially impairs vascular endothelial function. J Am Heart Assoc, 5(8), e003858.
Peng RD, Chang HH, Bell ML, et al. Coarse Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Hospital Admissions for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Diseases Among Medicare Patients. JAMA. 2008;299(18):2172–2179. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.299.18.2172
Pope CA, III, Burnett RT, Krewski D, et al. Cardiovascular mortality and exposure to airborne fine particulate matter and cigarette smoke: Shape of the exposure-response relationship. Circulation. 2009;120(11):941–948. http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/120/11/941. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.857888.
Grant, K. S., Petroff, R., Isoherranen, N., Stella, N., & Burbacher, T. M. (2018). Cannabis use during pregnancy: pharmacokinetics and effects on child development. Pharmacol Ther, 182, 133–151.
Metz, T. D., Allshouse, A. A., Hogue, C. J., Goldenberg, R. L., Dudley, D. J., Varner, M. W., ... & Silver, R. M. (2017). Maternal marijuana use, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and neonatal morbidity. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 217(4), 478-e1.
Warshak, C. R., Regan, J., Moore, B., Magner, K., Kritzer, S., & Van Hook, J. (2015). Association between marijuana use and adverse obstetrical and neonatal outcomes. J Perinatol, 35(12), 991.
Gunn, J. K. L., Rosales, C. B., Center, K. E., Nuñez, A., Gibson, S. J., Christ, C., & Ehiri, J. E. (2016). Prenatal exposure to cannabis and maternal and child health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open, 6(4), e009986.
Committee on Obstetric Practice. Committee Opinion No. 722: Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation. Obstet Gynecol 2017; 130(4):e205–9. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000002354
Curran HV, Freeman TP, Mokrysz C, Lewis DA, Morgan CJ, Parsons LH. Keep off the grass? Cannabis, cognition and addiction. Nat Rev Neurosci 2016; 17(5):293–306. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2016.28
Azofeifa A, Mattson ME, Schauer G, McAfee T, Grant A, Lyerla R. National Estimates of Marijuana Use and Related Indicators - National Survey on Drug Use and Health, United States, 2002-2014. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2016; 65(11):1-28. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6511a1
NSDUH National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Who uses NSDUH data? Accessed at https://nsduhweb.rti.org/respweb/datause.html on 13 June 2019.
Fortune. 7 Most Powerful People in America’s Marijuana Industry. Accessed at http://fortune.com/2016/04/20/marijuana-industry-powerful-420/ on 13 June 2019.
Richter KP, Levy S. Big marijuana--lessons from big tobacco. N Engl J Med 2014; 371(5):399–401. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp1406074
420 Magazine. The Healing Properties of Cannabis. Accessed at https://www.420magazine.com/medical-marijuana/the-healing-properties-of-cannabis/the-healing-properties-of-cannabis/ on 13 June 2019.
Dickson B, Mansfield C, Guiahi M, Allshouse AA, Borgelt LM, Sheeder J, et al. Recommendations From Cannabis Dispensaries About First-Trimester Cannabis Use. Obstet Gynecol. 2018; https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000002619
Government of Canada. Information update - marijuana for medical purposes - advertising and licensed producers. Accessed at http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2014/42677a-eng.php on 13 June 2019.
CNN. FDA cracks down on claims that cannabis can cure cancer. Accessed at https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/02/health/marijuana-cbd-cancer-fda-warning/index.html on 13 June 2019.
Barry RA, Glantz S. A Public Health Framework for Legalized Retail Marijuana Based on the US Experience: Avoiding a New Tobacco Industry. PLoS Med 2016; 13(9):e1002131. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002131
Cavazos-Rehg PA, Krauss MJ, Sowles SJ, Bierut LJ. Marijuana-Related Posts on Instagram. Prev Sci 2016; 17(6):710–20. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-016-0669-9
Marijuana Business Daily. Marijuana firms in the dark when it comes to social media advertising. Accessed at https://mjbizdaily.com/marijuana-firms-dark-comes-social-media-advertising/ on 13 June 2019.
Washington Post. Even where it’s legal to sell marijuana, it’s hard to advertise it. Accessed at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/04/05/even-where-its-legal-to-sell-marijuana-its-hard-to-advertise-it/?utm_term=.b55c8a4415fb on 13 June 2019.
Cavazos-Rehg PA, Krauss M, Fisher SL, Salyer P, Grucza RA, Bierut LJ. Twitter chatter about marijuana. J Adolesc Health 2015; 56(2):139–45 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.10.270
Cavazos-Rehg PA, Krauss MJ, Sowles SJ, Murphy GM, Bierut LJ. Exposure to and Content of Marijuana Product Reviews. Prev Sci 2018; 19(2):127–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-017-0818-9
Feedspot. Top 100 marijuana blogs, websites and newsletters to follow in 2018. https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_marijuana_blogs/. Accessed on 13 June 2019.
Civilized. Medical cannabis: History, benefits, use and effects. https://www.civilized.life/articles/medical-cannabis-history-benefits-use-and-effects/. Accessed on 13 June 2019.
McGinty EE, Samples H, Bandara SN, Saloner B, Bachhuber MA, Barry CL. The emerging public discourse on state legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the US: Analysis of news media coverage, 2010-2014. Prev Med 2016; 90:114–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.06.040
JI and SK had the idea for the study. SK secured funding for the study. JI, SK, and BC designed the study. MV conducted the statistical analyses. SK, SS, JI, MV, AZ, and BC analyzed and interpreted the data. JI, SK, BC, SS, and AZ wrote and revised the manuscript. All authors critically revised the manuscript and approved the final version for submission. SK is the guarantor.
This work was supported by the following grants: 1R01HL130484 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Dr. Keyhani) and K23DK103963 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (Dr. Ishida).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.
The manuscript’s guarantor (SK) affirms that this manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned have been explained.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic Supplementary Material
About this article
Cite this article
Ishida, J.H., Zhang, A.J., Steigerwald, S. et al. Sources of Information and Beliefs About the Health Effects of Marijuana. J GEN INTERN MED 35, 153–159 (2020) doi:10.1007/s11606-019-05335-6
- information source