Researchers from Brown University recently conducted a study that examined posts on Reddit that could help explain what may have influenced the shift observed in the support for cannabis legalization by the public.
Babak Hemmatian, the researcher who led the study, used machine learning to conduct an analysis of more than 3 million comments made on Reddit in the period 2009–19, to understand the online conversations that drove individuals to support reform. The chosen period of study represents an important timeframe in the legalization movement at the state level.
The analysis revealed some unexpected trends, including the fact that individuals posting more character, judgment-based, generalized arguments was a clear prelude for state-level marijuana reform. This was observed around 2012 in particular as the first states ended marijuana prohibition.
In an interview, Hemmatian stated that his objective was to learn whether the way the public discussed cannabis facilitated the shift to bipartisan consensus in a few years and how the society’s attitude change influenced how people talked about marijuana. The study also found that the legal implications for marijuana reform weren’t discussed in detail until after reforms had been passed in most states. This is in addition to discovering that discussions on marijuana’s health impacts only grew after legalization and mainly occurred in casual conversations.
In the report, the author of the study explained that both topics were pertinent to how and whether cannabis needed to be deregulated but were ignored in the decision-making process then addressed once the societal decision had been made. He further intimated that character judgments may have pushed individuals who weren’t opposed to legalization but hadn’t made up their minds over to the prolegalization side.
This isn’t the first time Reddit has been used to identify patterns and trends in marijuana consumption. In 2018, a study published in the “Drug and Alcohol Dependence” journal analyzed more than 2 million posts on the site, which led to various discoveries.
It seems researchers aren’t the only ones interested in investigating the intersection of social media and drug policy. Recently, the FDA revealed that it planned to use Reddit and other new sources of data to better understand public health issues surrounding the use of CBD and other cannabis derivatives, including THC. The agency also plans to develop a system to help find usage patterns and safety signals linked to emerging cannabis-derived products in real time. This includes THC, which the FDA warns consumers about, noting that the agency has yet to assess the substance’s effectiveness or safety.
The FDA warning notwithstanding, dozens of states have moved ahead to legalize the herb, and many companies, including Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS), are thriving in those established legal markets.
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