Updated: Mar 24
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A January 2023 study entitled "What is the Hype on Medicinal Cannabis in the United States? A Content Analysis of Medicinal Cannabis Tweets" that was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review had the goal of identifying "themes in medicinal cannabis tweets from U.S. jurisdictions with different legal statuses of cannabis from January to June 2021."
The study reported that medicinal cannabis is now legal in 44 U.S. jurisdictions. "Between 2020 and 2021 alone, four U.S. jurisdictions legalised medicinal cannabis," reported the researchers.
Example of a pro-cannabis Tweet
The design of this research involved an analysis of 25,099 "historical tweets from 51 U.S. jurisdictions" that were collected. The scientists took a random sample of these social media posts made on the platform Twitter.
The inclusion strategy employed by the researchers including searching for social media posts involving terms such as "medical cannabis" and "medical marijuana" and posts referencing one or more common conditions for which medical cannabis is used, such as anxiety, depression, or pain. Tweets featuring no location citation or that were posted from outside of the United States were excluded.
Image courtesy Darryl Glubczynski
The study found that the social media posts regarding medical cannabis were "mainly posted by the public (52 percent of posts), cannabis industry professionals (17 percent), and advocates (10 percent)." Interestingly, the research noted that only 1.2 percent of the posts were suspected to be bots or spam accounts.
The analysis by the researchers revealed that the posts fell into a small group of common themes, including what they labeled "Policy," "Sales and industry opportunities," "Therapeutic value," and "Adverse effects."
The posts fell into a small group of common themes, including "Policy," "Sales and industry opportunities," "Therapeutic value," and "Adverse effects."
Tweets in the Therapeutic value group were found to be mostly based on "public testimonials and personal experiences in using cannabis to treat chronic medical conditions." The study reported that therapeutic posts also included product and dosing recommendations. These types of posts appeared in more than six percent of the medical cannabis posts made in fully legalized jurisdictions (those that feature adult-use marijuana) versus only about two percent of the posts in those states that continue to prohibit all forms of cannabis, including medical.
"Approximately three to four percent of the Tweets also featured research articles documenting the benefits of medicinal cannabis for a range of medical conditions or successful use of medicinal cannabis," reported the study.
Image courtesy Darryl Glubczynski
The study's authors concluded that their analysis functioned as a "snapshot of public discourse by Twitter users about medicinal cannabis" and that this open discussion was dominated by pro-cannabis tts. It found the major themes of the social media posts to be related to "policy, therapeutic value, sales and industry opportunities, and—to a lesser extent—adverse effects."
The study found that most medical cannabis posts featured "pro-cannabis tweets and the key themes were broadly related to policy, therapeutic value, sales and industry opportunities, and to a less extent, adverse effects."
The researchers noted that their findings likely do not represent the views of all Twitter users or all cannabis users. They found that many posts touted unsubstantiated health claims, potential adverse effects of using cannabis, and crime-related topics and that this situation illustrates "the importance of content regulation and the continuity of monitoring public conversations to allow us to estimate cannabis-related harms to inform health surveillance and future research."
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