Despite restrictions on paid advertising cannabis on social media, most teenagers reported seeing marijuana marketing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, according to a public health study authored by University of Massachusetts Amherst injury prevention researcher Jennifer Whitehill.
Some 94% of adolescents surveyed said they had been exposed to marijuana marketing either on social media, print media or on a billboard. Because cannabis is an illegal drug under federal law, federal restrictions prohibit or severely restrict cannabis companies from running ads, even in states where marijuana sales have been legalized for adults age 21 and over. Nationwide, as with alcohol, the sale of marijuana to anyone under age 21 is illegal. For both alcohol and marijuana marketing, additional state and federal advertising regulations exist, especially when a certain portion of the audience is under the age of 21. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram prohibit marijuana ads, but cannabis companies can develop a social media presence by establishing a business profile and sharing posts and tweets.
These are the latest findings from the first U.S. study to examine youth exposure to marijuana marketing in states that have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. Whitehill and colleagues found that exposure to marijuana marketing on social media is not only widespread but also associated with recent use of marijuana by adolescents. For example, teens who reported seeing marijuana promotions on Instagram were more than twice as likely to have used marijuana in the past year, compared to youth who did not see such promotions.
The research, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, suggests that “current restrictions on social media content do not go far enough because it’s clearly making its way to youth,” says Whitehill, assistant professor of health promotion and policy in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. Whitehill is part