With an increase in the legalization of recreational marijuana across the USA, advertising for marijuana products is more widespread, especially on the Internet where such practices pose a regulatory challenge. In this study, we examined the content of marijuana advertising on Weedmaps, a popular website that markets marijuana retailers online. A total of 146 recreational marijuana retailers in Colorado and Washington were examined on Weedmaps. We studied the age verification practices made in retailers’ own websites, the presence of health claims they made about marijuana on Weedmaps, and the characteristics of followers of Weedmaps on social media sites. Many retailers had no security measure to determine age (41 % in Colorado, 35 % in Washington). Approximately 61 % of retailers in Colorado and 44 % in Washington made health claims about the benefits of marijuana, including anxiety reduction, treatment of depression, insomnia, and pain/inflammation. Inferred demographic characteristics of followers of Weedmaps on Twitter and Instagram revealed that over 60 % were male and nearly 70 % or more were age 20–29 years old, yet some (15–18 %) were under the age of 20. Our findings indicate that marijuana retailers have a visible presence on the Internet. Potential customers might be enticed by retailers who tout health claims about marijuana use. It may also be appealing for a younger demographic to overlook age restrictions and engage with marijuana retailers via social media. As a whole, our findings can help to guide future policy making on the issue of marijuana-related advertising.
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This publication was supported by the Washington University in St. Louis Office of the Provost Diversity and Inclusion Grant and the Institute for Public Health, and the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers R01DA032843 (PCR) and R01DA039455 (PCR)).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
The Washington University Human Research Protection Office granted this study a non-human determination. Therefore, consent was not needed for this study.
Tatiana Bierut, Hamilton College; Melissa J. Krauss, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine; Shaina J. Sowles, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine; Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine.
This publication was supported by the Washington University in St. Louis Office of the Provost Diversity and Inclusion Grant and the Institute for Public Health, and the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers R01DA032843 (PCR) and R01DA039455 (PCR)) and the Washington University Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Grant (UL1 TR000448). The authors would like to acknowledge the Washington University School of Medicine research assistants, Elizabeth Pfitzinger and Haley Stelzer-Monahan for their assistance coding the Weedmaps retailers.
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Bierut, T., Krauss, M.J., Sowles, S.J. et al. Exploring Marijuana Advertising on Weedmaps, a Popular Online Directory. Prev Sci 18, 183–192 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-016-0702-z
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