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Study Summary: Psychology of Consumer Attitudes Toward Cannabis

Updated: Jan 4

A September 2022 study entitled "Cultural, Social, and Psychological Factors of the Conservative Consumer Toward Legal Cannabis Use—A Review Since 2013" that was published in the journal Sustainability addressed "consumer cultural, social, and psychological factors regarding the legal use of cannabis."

The research noted that different cultures "influence the endorsement or rejection of cannabis use depending on political views, religious sentiments, and affiliated subcultures (adult, youth, or adolescent)."

The study's authors reported that public perception of cannabis legalization "has begun to shift dramatically in favor of cannabis reform policy." As an example, it noted that public support for marijuana legalization in Germany increased from 30 percent in 2014 to nearly 50 percent in 2020. However, the research also noted that a more widespread understanding of the herb's properties and the nature of cannabis-derived products has served to "normalize social attitudes toward medical cannabis."


The research reported that a number of inputs affect a person's attitude of cannabis legalization and their personal consumption habits, including "cultural, social, and psychological factors."


Public perception of cannabis legalization "has begun to shift dramatically in the favor of cannabis reform policy."

The Study

The design of this scientific investigation was that of a literature review that included the databases PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. It relied primarily on peer reviewed research that was published in English between 2013 and 2022.


"In each database search, the following keywords were used: 'cannabis' AND 'consumer behavior' OR 'consumer cultural factor' OR 'consumer social factor' OR 'consumer psychological factor,'" reported the study.


Results

The study found that social class influences "the patterns of consumption and attitude toward legal cannabis use" and that "the association between cannabis use and social class holds paramount importance."


The research also noted the role of social values and norms that influence people's opinions of cannabis. "Cannabis use may be identified as a social need and part of their culture or a specific lifestyle marked as in vogue by some cultures," reported the scientists.


"The study reported that attitudes toward cannabis legalization and cannabis use are heavily influenced by subculture."

The study also reported that attitudes toward cannabis legalization and use are heavily influenced by subculture, "which may be defined as the culmination of stories, rituals, and symbols around cannabis use." Political ideologies also play a role, according to this research, with self-labeled conservatives typically displaying disapproval of legal cannabis while those categorized as liberal most often support legalization.


Reasons for Opposition to Cannabis

The research identified a number of reasons behind why some people oppose the legalization and use of cannabis. It noted that prominent "religious sentiments reject cannabis use."


The study reported that opponents of cannabis legalization and use harbor a variety of beliefs to justify their stance, including damage to both physical and mental health and issues related to dependence and abuse. "Additionally, the anti-legalization [voices] argue that legalization may lead to...addiction behavior toward hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine," reported the scientists (who somehow avoided reference to the controversial gateway theory of cannabis that warns that marijuana consumption leads to use of harder and more dangerous drugs).


"Opponents of cannabis legalization harbor beliefs to justify their stance that include damage to both physical and mental health and dependence and abuse."

Despite continued opposition to cannabis, the study noted that the current wave of marijuana legalization in North America and other regions of the world has shifted cannabis use "from marginal to mainstream and gained acceptance by several cultures."


Conclusions

"In this review, we found that cultures influence the endorsement or rejection of cannabis use depending on their political views, religious sentiments, and affiliated subcultures," concluded the study's authors. They noted that the regulation of medical cannabis "enables safe access and harm reduction via proper labelling, lab testing, and education."

The report summarized that cannabis use is prevalent in all socioeconomic classes and that disapproval of cannabis legalization results primarily from "consumers with a conservative political view." It noted that politically conservative people believe that cannabis use will "lead to deterioration of physical and mental health and cause dependence syndrome, leading to crime and violence."


The scientists explained that this situation is exacerbated by disinformation about cannabis that is spread through "media governed by political disposition" and that religious sentiment is a "main driver of legal cannabis use rejection."


"Politically liberal people tout the potential economic benefits of legal cannabis."

On the contrary, the study reported that politically liberal people tout the potential economic benefits of legal cannabis and that legitimate marijuana "avoids violent crimes associated with illegal drug enterprises and trades." Interestingly, the study noted that "well-educated people," including medical students, are more accepting of the idea of cannabis legalization due to their knowledge "about the pharmaceutical and therapeutic effects" of the herb.


Educating about Cannabis

The study's authors concluded that "educating the public about the benefits of cannabis may encourage the acceptance and normalization of [it's] legalization in society" and that negative perceptions of the plant and its consumption "could be minimized by proper labelling and reaffirmation of scientific evidence."


View the original study.


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