May 17, 2018
2 min read

Medical marijuana advertising exposure may increase adolescents' marijuana use

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Elizabeth J. D’Amico

Exposure to medical marijuana advertising may play a role in the formation of adolescents’ opinions regarding marijuana, while simultaneously contributing to increased marijuana use and related negative consequences, according to  recently published study results in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Many adolescents are exposed to medical marijuana advertising,” Elizabeth J. D’Amico, PhD, senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corp., told Infectious Diseases in Children. “We found that adolescents who reported higher than average exposure to medical marijuana ads tended to also report greater marijuana use, stronger intentions to use marijuana in the future, stronger positive expectancies about marijuana use and more negative consequences from use.”

Researchers collected data from periodic surveys of adolescents recruited from school districts in Southern California (n = 4,946; mean age, 13; 49.1% male; 52.9% Hispanic; 15.4% white; 17.7% Asian; 3% black; 11% other) between 2010 and 2017. Researchers used parallel process latent growth modeling in a structural equation modeling framework to assess change over the 7 years.

Survey questions included how often participants had seen medical marijuana advertisements in the past 3 months, if they intended to use marijuana in the next 6 months, the number of days they used marijuana in the past month and how often they experienced each of four negative consequences in the past year. Negative consequences were characterized as trouble concentrating, missing school, doing something that was later regretted and getting into trouble at school or home. Researchers dichotomized responses because of skewness at younger ages.

Researchers found that in 2010, 25% of the participants reported seeing at least one medical marijuana advertisement during the previous 3 months. In 2017, 70% reported seeing at least one medical marijuana advertisement within the previous three months. The adolescents who reported that they had greater exposure to marijuana advertisements were more likely to report having used marijuana in the last month and were more likely to report that they expected to use marijuana during the next 6 months. Researchers also found that greater exposure to medical marijuana advertising was associated with the adolescents’ reporting more positive expectations for marijuana use and more negative consequences.

These results highlight the importance of beginning to think about regulations for marijuana advertising, similar to the tobacco and alcohol regulations that are already in place, according to D’Amico.

“It is also crucial that teachers, parents and community leaders be ready to provide teens with up-to-date information on both medical and recreational marijuana to help youth better understand that although there may be some benefits medically for adults, marijuana use during adolescence can affect functioning during the teen years as the brain is still developing,” D’Amico said. – by Melissa J. Webb

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.