Ever since certain states began allowing marijuana ads on billboards, television, the Internet, and in print publications, outspoken members of the anti-legalization crowd have warned that cannabis advertising would create a whole new crop of cannabis customers. But is that the case?
The more often people are exposed to ads for weed, opponents warn, the more inclined they’ll be to try it. And that is a worthy concern, especially when it comes comes to children and teens — a demographic that even the staunchest legalization advocates agree have no business using the substance.
The trouble is, there is no evidence that weed ads translate into new cannabis consumers -- regardless of age. In fact, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, people exposed to marijuana ads are not significantly more likely to use marijuana.
The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, examines the reach of pot advertising across Oregon.
“Exposure to any marijuana advertising in the past month did not significantly differ by participant gender, race/ethnicity, highest level of education completed, home ownership, residence in a metro area, or marijuana use,” the study says.
As Marijuana Moment points out, researchers determined that “exposure to advertising was significantly higher among people who said they had a marijuana store in their neighborhood.” And as the site also notes, there was nothing to indicate that the respondents’ increased exposure to those ads meant that they were more likely to shop at those retailers or otherwise consume marijuana.
Among respondents who viewed a marijuana ad within the past 30 days, 53 percent said they never consumed cannabis, 54.9 percent described themselves as former users or had “experimented” with the drug, and 57.6 percent were current users.
Not only does the study contradict widely held assumptions about the negative impacts of marijuana advertising, it also suggests that marijuana dispensaries are effective at providing valuable educational information regarding the possible risks of cannabis use — information that might not otherwise reach prospective users.
So, if marijuana ads do little to produce new users, what are they good for?
As Marijuana Moment suggests, pot ads provide cannabis businesses with an effective method of differentiating “their specific offerings from those of their competitors in the minds of already-active consumers.”
In other words, if you aren’t going to buy pot, cannabis advertising isn't going to change your mind. If you already buy pot, however, pot ads could change your mind about whose pot to buy.
Marijuana marketers take note.