A Connection Between Medical Marijuana Advertisements and Pot Consumption Among Youth

Medical Marijuana promotion
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Advertising in America is so commonplace that it’s taken for granted. Nobody really bats an eye that from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, you’ll likely see dozens, maybe even hundreds of advertisements. It’s not even odd anymore that Americans are inundated with compelling imagery, audio material, and other messaging tools that try to get them to buy products and services.

By themselves, advertisements are seen to be more or less innocuous. Apart from getting people to make an occasional impulse buy, they didn’t fully think through the actual harm that advertisements may have.

Well, maybe you’d adopt a different frame of mind if you found out that your son or daughter began using marijuana because they saw an advertisement for it.

Sadly, that’s exactly what’s happening. In states where marijuana is now legal, young people are being exposed to medical marijuana advertisements. The result? Not surprisingly, more young people are experimenting with cannabis shortly after seeing such ads.

Marijuana Advertising

A recent RAND Corporation study found that adolescents who view medical marijuana advertisements are:

  • More likely to use marijuana
  • More likely to express intentions to use marijuana
  • More likely to have positive expectations of marijuana

Now that 29 states and the District of Columbia have approved the sale of medical marijuana (with about one-third of those states having approved recreational marijuana), it is crucial that residents of these states strongly consider the implications of marijuana advertising. Is it really “okay” to be advertising a mind-altering drug?

“Our findings suggest that increased exposure to medical marijuana advertising is associated with increased marijuana use and related negative consequences throughout adolescence. …”
Pot addict at home
Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock by Getty Images

According to Elizabeth D’Amico, the RAND Corporation’s study author, “Our findings suggest that increased exposure to medical marijuana advertising is associated with increased marijuana use and related negative consequences throughout adolescence. Thus, it is possible that teens who were exposed to the most medical marijuana advertising were more likely to use marijuana heavily and therefore experience more negative consequences.”

The advertising of medical marijuana, though legal, has no benefit to society whatsoever other than to increase profits for medical marijuana corporations. There is no need for such advertising. One could even argue that it’s immoral that patients are urged by advertisements to ascribe to medical marijuana treatments in the first place. Didn’t the opioid prescription painkiller epidemic teach us just how dangerous rampant drug advertising and promotion can be? When we add that adolescents are also compelled to experiment with marijuana as a result of seeing such advertisements, it becomes difficult to see anything but harm in these marketing practices.

A Reminder of Similar Problems with Alcohol Advertising

The growing problem created by marijuana advertising is quite reminiscent of the ongoing problems caused by alcohol advertising.

Did you know that alcohol advertising is banned in these countries, among others?:

  • France
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • Myanmar
  • Sri Lanka
  • Kenya
  • Lithuania

Compare that to the United States, where not only is alcohol advertising completely legal (and it’s a multi-billion dollar per year advertising campaign) but the alcohol industry’s “strictest” rule is that alcohol advertisements can only be placed in media where 70% of the audience is over the legal drinking age. That means that, at any given time, 30 percent of the individuals who see an alcohol advertisement are underage! Almost one-third of alcohol advertising is going directly to people who are not yet old enough to consume alcohol legally. How is that moral?

Legal Does Not Mean Right – The Implications of Advertising Mind-Altering Substances

I think a case can be made that just because something is legal does not make it moral. Morality, by and large, is a personal thing. People decide on their moral codes due to their upbringing, their experiences, their opinion leaders and mentors, their geographic location, whatever culture they happen to belong to, and their personal views on life.

But at the same time, morality is also a societal thing. It’s a group agreement on what is and isnt okay. It’s a group of people coming together and saying, “We don’t think people should be able to do x, y, and z.”

That is the stance we should consider taking on marijuana advertising. It may be legal at this time, but it certainly isn’t moral. Medical marijuana advertising is effectively getting young people to experiment with marijuana, and that’s leading to a wide range of other problems.

Treatment – Helping a Loved One Kick a Drug Addiction

Helping young marijuana user
Image: FatCamera / iStock by Getty Images

Young people who use marijuana are at risk of developing marijuana dependence. Furthermore, they are also at increased risk of experimenting with other drugs. All of this can lead to addiction, a horrible crisis of both the mind and body that gets worse unless it is treated as soon as possible.

If you know someone who is struggling with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, you should do your best to help them get into a treatment center. Some drug and alcohol rehab programs offer very effective treatment modalities that can get to the bottom of addiction and help a recovering addict walk away from drugs for good.

Founded over fifty years ago and currently operating dozens of treatment centers in more than 20 countries, Narconon is known worldwide for its practical and unique treatment program. Narconon offers unprecedented results delivered under the core belief that no one has to be an addict “for life.”

Help your loved one take a step towards a better future. Contact Narconon today.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.