Report – Study: A Content Analysis of Cannabis Company Adherence to Marketing Requirements in Four States

Just as was seen with alcohol and tobacco, marketing messages around cannabis have the potential to influence youth access and use. A recent study by Megan A. Moreno and colleagues at University of Wisconsin (Madison) looked at state-based regulations around both restricted and required content when advertising across social media. The researchers examined 14 businesses and their social media use to explore whether recreational cannabis businesses were adhering to the safety-based regulations. Both restricted and required content were found and were missing, respectively, providing solid evidence that suggests more or different oversight might be needed in the world of cannabis marketing.

Source: Moreno, M. A., Jenkins, M., Binger, K., Kelly, L., Trangenstein, P. J., Whitehill, J. M., & Jernigan, D. H. (2022). A content analysis of cannabis company adherence to marketing requirements in four states. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs83(1), 27-36.

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies.

Marketing messages can influence adolescents’ attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol and tobacco. In the era of legalized cannabis use, retail cannabis companies often use social media marketing on platforms popular among youth. The purpose of this study was to evaluate adherence to state-based regulations for restricted and required content across social media from recreational cannabis businesses.

A retrospective content analysis was used to evaluate one year of publicly displayed posts by retail cannabis companies on Facebook and Instagram from four states in which recreational cannabis use is legal (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State). We evaluated restricted content including the following: (a) business practices, such as avoiding discounts/promotions or promoting branded products; (b) modeling cannabis use or overconsumption; (c) youth-focused messaging; and (d) health benefits. We evaluated required content including three types of warnings: (a) limiting cannabis use to those age 21 and over, (b) avoiding impaired driving, and (c) describing health risks.

A total of 2,660 posts were evaluated from 14 businesses. In the area of restricted content, discounts/promotions were present in approximately 35% of all posts. Another common category was overconsumption, found in 12% of posts. Required content regarding warnings was present in less than half of all social media posts.

Despite state-based advertising restrictions, recreational cannabis business pages use messages with youth appeal. Required safety message adherence is not typical on social media business pages.



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