Twitter Loves Weed: 70 Percent of Tweets About Cannabis Are Positive

It seems like twitter can’t get enough of the green; a recent study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking has uncovered some interesting information regarding attitudes towards cannabis on twitter. It appears that 70 percent of cannabis-related content on twitter shows it in a positive light, while only five percent expressed a negative tone.

Not surprisingly, researchers that dredged and analyzed content on twitter found that attitudes changed after the 2012 elections that legalized cannabis in two states. From 2012 to 2013 more tweets described potential benefits of medical cannabis and noted that cannabis is less harmful than other drugs.

Authors of the study, titled “Prevalence of Marijuana-Related Traffic on Twitter, 2012–2013: A Content Analysis,” had to figure out a way to sift through all the content on Twitter for the purpose of their analysis. They first started by making searches for “marijuana,” “pot” and “weed” on six social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, YouTube and Tumblr, and noted new terms associated with cannabis if they showed up more than five times on any one site. Any new terms for cannabis they discovered from this initial search they then re-entered into the same six social media sites to discover new terms associated with cannabis.

They then performed a similar process with Google and Urban Dictionary to uncover even more potential cannabis keywords. This list was re-entered into the six social media sites to confirm that at least five people used the term associated with cannabis in a post, tweet or comment. They repeated this process until no new terms came up, leaving them with about 40 terms that could be used to refer to cannabis. They performed a further search of these 40 terms on Twitter, and if more than 30 percent of the search results for a particular term were not associated with cannabis, they excluded it. This left them with only seven search queries they used for their analysis: “weed,” “marijuana,” “cannabis,” ‘smoke and (pot or joint or blunt or mary jane),’’ ‘‘need and (pot or joint or blunt),’’ ‘‘want and (pot or a blunt),’’ and ‘‘want and a joint.’’

In order to assess a possible change in attitude from 2012 to 2013 after the elections that legalized cannabis in two states, the researchers had to select a time period to grab tweets from. In order to avoid the chatter regarding the elections themselves authors decided to exclude Twitter content from six months before and after the elections in November.

The authors were mostly interested in observing trends in cannabis attitudes in adolescents, and also extracted age information from the metadata of each tweet. They developed an algorithm to automatically distinguish between tweets with a positive, negative or neutral attitude towards cannabis.

The algorithm was able to recognize that the statement “I hate when girls slobber on the blunt” isn’t negative, but was unable to discern the whether a statement like “I don’t smoke weed b/c it’s cool, I do it to get high” is positive or negative.

They study showed that adolescents have a tendency to broadcast the fact they or others consume cannabis, as well as their attitudes towards cannabis, alcohol, driving under the influence, etc. The authors expressed concern that exposure to these pro-cannabis statements from their peers may normalize the perception that cannabis is a benign drug. This may be a concern for parents who don’t want their adolescents to smoke weed at all, or want them to wait to try it until adulthood after their brain has fully developed.

The fact that positive mentions of marijuana on Twitter amongst adolescents increased after legalization in Colorado and Washington implies that the legislation may cause some public policy officials and legislators to perceive cannabis legalization as having a negative impact on the nation’s children. In light of this information, the cannabis industry must act proactively to limit underage access to cannabis, extracts, edibles as well as marketing. A responsible cannabis market that can successfully limit exposure of its activities to the underage population will increase the likelihood of full, nationwide cannabis legalization during next president’s stay in office. 

Photo Credit: VortexFarmacy

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