Viewing more medical marijuana ads linked to higher pot use among adolescents

IMAGE: A new study links viewing more medical marijuana advertising with increased use of marijuana by adolescents. view more 

Credit: RAND Corp.

Adolescents who view more advertising for medical marijuana are more likely to use marijuana, express intentions to use the drug and have more-positive expectations about the substance, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The findings — from a study that tracked adolescents’ viewing of medical marijuana ads over seven years — provides the best evidence to date that an increasing amount of advertising about marijuana may prompt young people to increase their use of the drug. The study was published by the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“This work highlights the importance of considering regulations for marijuana advertising that would be similar to rules already in place to curb the promotion of tobacco and alcohol across the United States,” said Elizabeth D’Amico, the study’s lead author and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

Researchers say the issue is of increasing importance because 29 states and Washington D.C. have approved sales of medical marijuana, and nine states and Washington D.C. also have approved recreational sales of the drug. Both actions are likely to lead to more marijuana advertising that will be visible to adolescents, even if they are not the target of the ads.

The RAND study followed 6,509 adolescents from 2010 until 2017 who were originally recruited from 16 middle schools in three school school districts in Southern California, and went on to more than 200 high schools in the region. Participants were periodically surveyed to assess their exposure to medical marijuana advertising, and asked about marijuana use and related topics.

The participants were ethnically diverse. and rates of marijuana use at the outset of the study were similar to national samples

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