Cannabis Marketing and Problematic Cannabis Use Among Adolescents
Health consequences of commercializing nonmedical cannabis remain unclear, but data suggest that youth may encounter unintended risks. This study examined whether cannabis marketing exposure and engagement are associated with problematic cannabis use among adolescents.
The analytic sample included 172 lifetime cannabis users (15–19 years old) who lived in one of six states with legalized nonmedical cannabis in 2018. Predictors included having exposure to or engagement with cannabis marketing on Facebook or Instagram, seeing cannabis billboards, owning/likely to own cannabis branded merchandise, and reporting a favorite cannabis brand. Logistic regression assessed whether these predictors were associated with weekly cannabis use, high-intensity cannabis use, and cannabis use disorder (CUD).
Adolescents who saw billboards rarely/sometimes had five times the odds of CUD, whereas youth who saw them most/all of the time had seven times the odds of weekly use and six times the odds of CUD. Adolescents who owned/were likely to own branded merchandise had nearly 23 times the odds of weekly use, and those with a favorite brand had three times the odds of weekly use and CUD. Adolescents who reported seeing promotions on Instagram rarely/sometimes had 85% lower odds of weekly use, and those who saw them most/all of the time had 93% lower odds.
The ways cannabis businesses market their products, especially branding, may affect patterns of underage cannabis use. Future research should test whether these associations persist in longitudinal designs. In the interim, states should consider an approach that offers youth additional means to protect them from cannabis marketing.