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Marijuana’s Money Trail: Four Billionaires

“Marijuana-Free Florida” presents the fourth in a series of public forums against the constitutional amendment to permanently expand the legalization of medical marijuana in the State of Florida to be held from 5:00 until 8:00 PM on September 26 at The Al Katz Center, 5710 Cortez Road, in the Cortez Commons shopping center.

The following week, on October 5, medical marijuana and substance abuse addictions expert Dr. Jessica Spencer will give two public lectures open to the community on “The Hidden Truths of the Corporate Medical Marijuana Cash Crop Industry to Your Neighborhood and Family” at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM, donations appreciated.

Who would believe that some of the wealthiest men on earth actually care about alleviating human suffering through medical marijuana when indeed their amassed fortunes could bring immeasurable relief to the masses in need? Billionaires including global investor George Soros, former CEO of Progressive Insurance Peter Lewis, former CEO of Men’s Wearhouse George Zimmer, and founder of the University of Phoenix and the Apollo Group John Sperling, are the money momentum behind the dangerous and relentless push to expand marijuana legalization through constitutional amendments state by state, even in states like Florida where medical marijuana is already legalized via three separate laws.

Multiple billionaires are pushing marijuana expansion amendments to state constitutions, but why? Who profits and how from such expansion amendments? First of all, medical marijuana is a massive lucrative cash crop industry that has proven to be an open door to detrimental societal changes and criminality, including vast human trafficking, theft of water resources, invasive marijuana grow sites into neighborhoods, and uncontrolled proliferation of stores in neighborhood shopping centers where marijuana is dispensed freely by young people who have no medical or pharmacological training, as does a physician or pharmacist.

In states such as Oregon and California, marijuana shops can be located across the street from schools and next door to churches. Children can watch adults consuming marijuana in attractive edible forms like gummy bears, while the children are on recess on school playgrounds. Vast water resources are illegally diverted to feed ever-thirsty marijuana plants, each of which consumes five gallons of water per day, and beautiful ranches are being turned into hundreds of acres of marijuana grow sites, which emit an unmistakable putrid smell all day and all night.

Once marijuana is legalized by constitutional amendment, as being sought in the State of Florida, your neighborhood, no matter where it is, can become a marijuana grow site without local control, and the putrid pervasive smell of marijuana will inescapably fill the air 24 hours per day. With constitutional legalization, traffic accidents increase, public health decreases, workplace productivity declines, and the billionaires stand to greatly profiteer on the backs of the hard-working public. In fact, the marijuana cash crop industry will exceed in human misery the cotton cash crop industry and is currently being promoted as a massive money flow for corporate investors.

Hear the facts behind the facts. Gather literature, and watch films on this urgent constitutional issue now before the Florida public.

Women involved in the highly-profitable marijuana cash-crop industry are paid extra to harvest cannabis topless and frequently suffer sexual abuse. Ads for women workers describe them as sex objects: “looking for new help, topless extra” or “Need a good looking trimmer that is … open minded [for sex acts].”

When California legalized medical marijuana, the public had no idea that the State’s rivers would be dried up due to each marijuana plant consuming five gallons of water per day, multiplied by 50,000 marijuana farms just in California and millions of thirsty plants, according to Scientific American. In fact, water consumption by every marijuana plant exceeds water consumption of the migrant workers, including children, who prepare marijuana for market.

Marijuana is a profit-driven cash crop, as was cotton, grown outdoors on plantations, often owned by interstate corporations, and in windowless, isolated factories, where migrants can labor under slave-like conditions. In California’s medical marijuana industry, migrants have been shot and murdered, execution-style, by the plantation owner on a rural 800-acre farm.

Throughout the world, in the UK and elsewhere, many thousands of impoverished children have been found imprisoned as slaves in marijuana factories. In Florida, the first marijuana factory is hidden from public view in a rural area, surrounded by barbed wire, protected by armed guards, and secured by numerous checkpoints where cell phones are confiscated.

The decision to expand marijuana in Florida has limitless ramifications for expanded profiteering with inestimable social costs, heightened human trafficking, escalating crimes against women and children, enormous environmental damage through drought created by millions of ever-thirsty marijuana plants and gigantic electric consumption in marijuana factories, and deteriorating health conditions of migrant worker families and marijuana consumers exposed to high levels of toxic pesticides used on the plants and effectively unregulated by under-staffed agencies.

EDITORS NOTE: Suggested donation for this event is $7.00. Please contact The Al Katz Center: 941-313-9239. This event includes materials, speakers, and films.

Florida: Anti-Marijuana ‘Vote No On 2’ releases new video ‘Budtenders’

The “Vote No On 2” Campaign has released a new TV ad titled “Budtenders.” The ad “demonstrates the complete sham that Amendment 2 is by visually showing that there are no Pharmacists or Pharmacies involved in ‘medical marijuana,’” according to a Vote No On 2 email.

You can view our new ad “Budtenders”:

Budtender Mason Davila from Ontario, Oregon

Budtender Mason Davila from Ontario, Oregon.

StonerDays.com defines Budtender as:

noun 1. a person who weighs out portions of medical marijuana and provides information about the suggested use of each product to his or her patient/members 2. a volunteer at a medical marijuana collective.

ABOUT VOTE NO ON 2

Vote No on 2 is a grassroots campaign bringing the truth about Amendment 2 to the voters of Florida.Our coalition includes members of law enforcement, business leaders, Constitutional law attorneys,doctors, other medical professionals, parents and Floridians from all walks of life. We know that Amendment 2 is simply a guise to legalize pot smoking in Florida and our goal is to point out the loopholes and explain why this Amendment is bad for Florida.

Click here to learn more about Vote No On 2.

RELATED VIDEO: Three things…

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Budtender Jason McDaniel behind the counter at Sticky Medz in Los Angeles, California.

Digital Advertising Had Significant Impact on Medical Marijuana Vote in Florida

WASHINGTONDec. 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Online video and banner ads had a significant impact on theFlorida medical marijuana race, according to a post-election survey of 800 voters conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research on behalf of United for Care, which was advocating for Amendment 2.

The survey revealed that those who saw Internet advertisements voted for Florida’s Amendment 2 at a rate of 65%, while those that did not, voted only at a rate of 53%. The 12% difference was not simply a function of targeting – for example – people who reported seeing Internet ads voted for Democrat Charlie Crist at a rate of 42% while those that said they did not voted for Crist at a rate of 40%.

The majority of the online advertising was a combination of cookie-targeted banner and video ads provided by Audience Partners, matched to the National Online Voter File® along with a proprietary medical marijuana support model that incorporated data from petition signers. Impact Politics, a campaign media and marketing strategy firm in Weston, FL, managed the digital buy and creative production for United for Care.

Audience Partner’s medical marijuana probabilistic model, created through extensive surveying and data modeling, provided Impact Politics and the United for Care Campaign the means to target voters “most likely to be persuadable” as well as those “most likely supporters” with a history of voting.

“We were outspent 3 to 1 on media, but the data modeling and analytics provided by Audience Partners allowed us to layer our online efforts across the state with unprecedented efficiency,” said Brian Franklin, President of Impact Politics and a senior consultant for the United for Care Campaign. “Access to this data allowed us to triage our resources, tweak our creative with real-time data, and maximize the impact of our online spend.”

United for Care’s digital buy placed a heavy emphasis on seniors most likely to be persuadable. In fact, 33% of those who recalled seeing online ads were over the age of 65.

While 65% of those who saw online ads voted yes for Amendment 2, the survey showed that those who saw any ads (including television only) voted 56% yes, and those that saw no ads at all voted 50% yes. 88% of those who saw Internet ads thought they were helpful in making their decision. Heavy Internet users decided earlier than lighter users – 85% decided how they were going to vote a month or more before the election.

Amendment 2 reached 58% support – the second highest level of support for medical marijuana in any state, and won roughly 500,000 more votes than Governor Rick Scott. Unfortunately for supporters of the amendment, Florida is one of the few states that requires 60% to pass.

About Impact Politics
Impact Politics is an award-winning political consulting firm that specializes in writing, strategy and new media for national, state, and federal candidate campaigns, ballot initiatives, and advocacy organizations. Founded byBrian Franklin, a Board Member of the American Association of Political Consultants and co-chair of its Technology Committee, the firm has won numerous Pollie and Reed awards, from Best Overall Internet Campaign and Best Online Targeting to Best Online Advertisements and Best Use of Humor in Online Ads. The firm is based in Weston, FL. More information can be found at www.impactpolitics.com

About Audience Partners
Audience Partners is an Enterprise Advertising Management company that operates an addressable advertising platform leveraging data science, programmatic ad buying and unique first party data assets to target individuals across screens on PCs, mobile phones, tablets, and addressable TVs. Focused on politics/advocacy, higher education and healthcare, Audience Partners’ success has been its ability to accurately reach high value audiences on their digital devices at scale by connecting offline databases with online devices. The company’s philosophy has been to use “first party, mailing address data” as the linchpin of its online targeting. Founded in 2008, the firm has offices in Washington DCPennsylvania and Toronto. More information can be found at www.audiencepartners.com

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20141217/165113-INFO

John Morgan — Wrong on Marijuana, Wrong on Charlie Crist: Can FL Dems trust his judgement?

As Florida Republicans bask in the sunshine of victory on November 5th there is one man who is not very happy. His name is John Morgan of the Orlando based firm of Morgan & Morgan. Morgan may be in hiding trying to avoid Florida’s Democrats. Why? Because Morgan sold the Florida Democratic party on putting marijuana and Charlie Crist on the November 4th ballot.

Ana Cruz, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, said, “I wish that it didn’t take medical marijuana on the ballot to motivate our young voters. But listen, we’ll take it any way we can get it.” Cruz didn’t get it.

Ben Pollara, a Democratic fundraiser and campaign manager for the United for Care group, stated, “We want to be able to have our stereotypical, lazy pothead voters to be able to vote from their couch.” Ben, it appears the lazy potheads stayed home to smoke a joint or two or three.

Hopes were high, no pun intended, that legalizing marijuana in Florida under Amendment 2 would bring out the millennials. It was Morgan’s long time ally and employee Charlie Crist who had the overwhelming support of the trial lawyers, of which Morgan is one. Both marijuana and Crist when down in smoke.

Can the Florida Democratic Party trust the judgement of John Morgan?

As Florida Democrats are licking their wounds, it is perhaps time for them to rethink the political savvy of John Morgan.

Morgan sold Florida Democrats on Amendment 2. Shame on him. Morgan sold Florida Democrats on Charlie Crist, shame on them.

RELATED VIDEO: John Morgan’s profanity laced interview about the defeat of Amendment 2. His diatribe is filled with hate for law enforcement, those who do not think like him and the older voters of Florida.

VIDEO: Vote No on 2 campaign releases new TV spot titled ‘It’s Nuts!’

Vote No on 2 Campaign today released its third TV spot, “It’s Nuts,” in the campaign to defeat Amendment 2, the so-called medical marijuana initiative.

The spot features Floridians, including Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos, a family physician and president of the Brevard County Medical Society, detailing the frightening realities of Amendment 2, such as the fact that this Amendment won’t require a prescription to get pot, that it’s not just for serious diseases and that the pot Floridians will have access to won’t be FDA approved.

“The message of this ad is simple: Amendment 2 is a trick that isn’t about compassion, it’s about legalizing pot,” said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Vote No on 2 Campaign.

“Floridians need to know the facts; and, this ad delivers them – it tells the truth about safety, teen access and the host of other problems this Amendment will bring to the Sunshine State.”

“Most importantly, this ad leaves Floridians with the message that the only way to stop the onslaught of problems this Amendment would bring to our state, is to vote no,” concluded Bascom.

View the TV spot:

The Vote No on 2 Campaign is a grassroots campaign, bringing the truth about Amendment 2 to the voters of Florida.  Its coalition includes members of law enforcement, business leaders, constitutional law attorneys, doctors and other medical professionals, parents and Floridians from all walks of life.  Amendment 2 is simply a guise to legalize pot smoking in Florida and the goal of this campaign is to point out the loopholes and explain why this amendment is bad for Florida.

For more information on the Vote No on 2 Campaign, please visit www.voteno2.org, follow @saynoamendment2 and like FB.com/noonamendment2.

Democrat Governor: Legalizing Pot Was ‘Reckless.’ A New Study Proves Him Right [+Video]

The top Democrat in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper, said Monday during a gubernatorial debate that legalizing marijuana in Colorado was “reckless.” His Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez, agreed.

According to The Huffington Post, Hickenlooper said, “I think for us to that that [legalize recreational use] without having all the data, there is not enough data, and to a certain extent you could say it was reckless.”

Hickenlooper is right and wrong.

He is certainly correct, and gets credit for admitting that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado was reckless. As we have shown hereherehere and here, the negative social costs are proof positive that this radical experiment is not only reckless, but dangerous.

But Hickenlooper is wrong that there is “not enough data.”

As former Obama administration drug policy expert Kevin Sabet has said, the trope that marijuana is harmless and non-addictive is a myth. His book, “Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana,” is a must-read for anyone who actually wants “the data.”

But now there’s even more “data.”

pot in bottles

Marijuana and cannabis-infused products are displayed for sale at a marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colorado. Source: AP.

A definitive study published this week by the Journal of Addiction by professor Wayne Hall of Kings College London shows that marijuana is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and is a gateway drug to other illegal dangerous drugs.

Hall’s research, conducted over the past 20 years, confirms what other studies have shown:

  • Regular adolescent marijuana users have lower educational attainment than non-using peers;
  • Those users are more likely to use other illegal drugs;
  • Adolescent use produces intellectual impairment;
  • It doubles the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia;
  • And, not surprisingly, increases the risk of heart attacks in middle-aged adults.

Hickenlooper’s warning to other states should be heeded. Legalizing marijuana is reckless, no matter what the pot pushers say to the contrary.

COMMENTARY BY CULLY STIMSON

Portrait of Cully Stimson

Cully Stimson@cullystimson

Charles “Cully” D. Stimson is a leading expert in criminal law, military law, military commissions and detention policy at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Read his research.

RELATED VIDEO: What are the physical effects of smoking cannabus/marijuana?

RELATED ARTICLES: 

How Marijuana Legalization United Democrat, Republican Running for Governor

The terrible truth about cannabis: Expert’s devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that smoking pot is harmless

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford on Amendment 2: ‘De Facto Legalization of Marijuana’

Tampa Bay Times recommends: Vote no on Amendment 2, medical marijuana

VIDEO: Florida Amendment 2 — The Drug Dealers Protection Act

Vote No On 2 has released its first television advertisement titled “Not What It Seems.” The following is the full text of the new advertisement:

Amendment 2 isn’t what it seems – it’s “caregiver” provision gives legal protection to marijuana dealers. Even felons and drug dealers could be “caregivers.” Amendment 2 “caregivers” don’t need background checks or medical training. So what looks like a safeguard, is really a loophole. Amendment 2 “caregivers” can’t be arrested or sued if their pot hurts someone. They don’t call it the drug dealer protection act – but they should.

Amendment 2 is NOT designed to help the sick – it’s designed to legalize pot smoking in Florida. WATCH to Learn the LOOPHOLES within the ballot language of this flawed constitutional amendment. Democrat gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is all in on Amendment 2. As a lawyer Crist knows about loopholes. Amendment 2 has many of them because the ballot language is so broad and open ended.

The below video titled “The Devil is in the Details” explains the key loopholes in Amendment 2:

Floridians must understand what Amendment 2 actually says, not proponents say about it. An informed voter is critical to the constitutional amendment process.

Florida Baptist Convention opposes Amendment 2

The Florida Baptist Convention has issued a resolution in opposition to the marijuana Amendment 2. John Sullivan in an email to all Pastors and Church leaders states, “The following resolution, which calls for the defeat of Amendment 2 – that seeks to legalize marijuana for “medicinal purposes” in Florida – was adopted by the State Board of Mission on September 19, 2014.”

Florida’s Baptist Pastors and Church leaders are now taking a political stand and asking all their member to vote no on Amendment 2.

The basis of the opposition is on the broad nature of the Amendment, which in effect legalizes marijuana for recreational purposes. For 23 years it has been legal to use of marijuana for medical purposes in Florida. The Florida legislature during the 2014 session, expanded use of non-addictive marijuana derivatives for medical purposes only.

The following is the full text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION TO OPPOSE THE LEGALIZATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA

WHEREAS, the November 4, 2014, General Election ballot will contain Amendment 2 – the so-called Florida Right to Medical Marijuana; and

WHEREAS, the ballot initiative seeks to permit persons with nine specific medical conditions to have unlimited access to medical marijuana; and

WHEREAS, the Amendment also provides that medical marijuana can be dispensed without a physician’s prescription for broad but undefined “other conditions” which can include anything from back pain to trouble sleeping; and

WHEREAS, so-called caregivers will be legally permitted to dispense the drug to up to five persons without legal regulation; and a caregiver can be anyone from a felon to a drug dealer; and

WHEREAS, the State Board of Missions has individual and corporate empathy for those Floridians suffering from debilitating diseases, but the Board does not believe legalizing an addictive drug without strong regulatory oversight is an appropriate solution; and

WHEREAS, the effort to legalize marijuana is contrary to the interests of the public health, safety and welfare, and will adversely affect the rights of citizens to live and work in a community where drug abuse is not accepted and citizens are not subjected to the adverse effects of the drug abuse; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the State Board of Missions of the Florida Baptist State Convention, go on record to oppose Amendment 2 that will appear on the November 4, 2014, General Election ballot; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board call upon Florida Baptist pastors to diligently encourage their church members to promote and vote to defeat Amendment 2; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Board request the Executive Director-Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, to take all reasonable actions to notify and create awareness among Florida Baptists on the importance of voting against Amendment 2.

Florida will have 1,789 pot shops if Amendment 2 passes

The Florida Department of Health has estimated that Florida will have 1,789 pot shops if Amendment 2 passes. The five counties with the largest estimated number of pot shops are:

  1. Miami-Dade with 239
  2. Palm Beach County with 126
  3. Broward County with 168
  4. Hillsborough County with 118
  5. Orange County (Orlando) with 112

In states like Washington and Colorado pot shops out number Starbucks in some areas.

Pot shops are coming to Florida should Amendment 2 pass. It is a booming business in other states. Growth is exponential.

Does this sound like medical use only?

Biotech Researcher Finds Medical Pot Laced With Feces & Vaginal Bacteria

One of the fallacies of “medical” marijuana is that it is safe, much like the aspirin or prescription drugs we take based on a doctor’s order. That is not the case according to Bloomberg’s Peter Robinson. Robinson reports:

SNC00119

Oaksterdam Uk Blue Cheese/Blueberry Kush. Photo courtesy of Mary Janebly.

Months after her biotechnology company sold for $40 million, Jessica Tonani is on Seattle’s Highway 99, where Kurt Cobain in his final days shot heroin in cheap motels. She’s scoring a gram of Blueberry Kush.

Tonani doesn’t plan to smoke the pot. Her typical procedure is to isolate some of its DNA and bank it, sequence its genetic profile, and test it for bacteria. After her stop at Choice Wellness, a medical marijuana store in one of the states where pot is newly legal, she buys the same strain in three more places (often collecting a “new-patient gift” of pot-infused gummi bears or goldfish). The goal for her new company, Verda Bio, is to build a database bringing order to billions of potential DNA combinations and, eventually, create stable strains that people can grow like a Red Delicious apple.

[ … ]

Tonani analyzed more than 20 samples of Harlequin along with Analytical 360, a Seattle testing lab, and found that 22 percent were high in the psychedelic tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and had almost no CBD. Any kids taking it were likely just getting stoned.

Tonani is also looking at contaminants to determine where they’re introduced and how to control for them. The first two samples turned up a long list of nastiness, including the fecal bacteria Enterobacter asburiae and the vaginal bacteriaGardnerella vaginalis. What this means, politely, is that many people handling pot don’t wash their hands.

Read more.

Others have found pot samples collected contaminated with pot shops rarely testing to insure customers get a safe product. “The whole thing is just so loose and unregulated,” said Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, Director of the Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi.

Green-Crack-Screen-Shot-8-6-14

Green Crack ads on The Denver Post’s Cannabist website. For a larger view click on the image.

Bob Doyle, Chairman of the Colorado Smart Approaches to Marijuana Coalition, Christian Thurstone, M.D., General, child and addiction psychiatrist and A. Eden Evins, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School Director, Center for Addiction Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital in a letter to Greg Moore, Editor of The Denver Post, and Ricardo Baca, Editor of The Cannabist, wrote:

We are writing to express serious concerns regarding The Denver Post’s The Cannabist website’s recommendations of various marijuana strains to “treat” mental illnesses, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  We are writing as concerned professionals with extensive experience in mental health treatment, medicine, and/or public health.

The Denver Post’s web site provides information from Leafly.com listing 92 Colorado specific strains of marijuana with 88 claimed to treat depression, 25 to treat PTSD, 23 for bipolar, and 40 for ADHD (see attached document assembled by Bob Doyle, Chair, Colorado SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) Coalition).  And a few strains are noted to treat cancer.  The improper treatment or delay in effective treatment of mental health issues and major psychiatric illnesses can exacerbate the problem and could lead to additional harm to the patient and/or those around them.

In light of the serious potential impact of your recommendations, including possible delay in medical treatment for serious and potentially life threatening mental illnesses, and the potential for worsening of those illnesses by the marijuana you recommend, we request that you release the data upon which these recommendations for dispensing the specific marijuana strains as a treatment for bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADHD, and depression are based.  We are sending a copy of this letter to medical authorities with knowledge of science and regulatory policies and procedures.

The absence of critical information on the web site for those accepting your advice to use the various marijuana strains is alarming and demonstrates a failure to appreciate the potential implications of your protocol.  For each of the strains, we request to know the recommended dosage, duration, the THC and CBD content, whether you’re recommending they be used with or without FDA approved medication or behavioral treatment for the condition, what contraindications are known, and whether other physical or mental health issues should preclude certain people from using the strain.

We look forward to your prompt reply given the seriousness of the claims on your web site and their potential negative impact on serious psychiatric conditions your web site claims will be “treated” by particular strains of marijuana.

This is coming to Florida now and will get worse if the Marijuana Amendment 2 passes in November. Gird your loins.

RELATED ARTICLES:

What Marijuana Might Do to Your Brain: The latest research suggests a link between the drug and laziness
‘Pot Trucks’ On Tap In Florida?
Medical Marijuana: Down The Rabbit Hole
The Real Story Behind Marijuana Legalization and Traffic Fatalities

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Jessica Tonani, President of Verda Bio testing pot samples in Washington state.

Social Media used to promote pot to young boys and girls

“As most of you know, I do a lot of training regarding the influence of popular culture on drug use, especially as it relates to marijuana. Our children are surrounded by books, magazines, fashion, television, movies, music and the ever present celebrities [see Mia Farrow tweet above] who extol the virtues of pot. These factors, combined with the business of Big Marijuana, and pro-pot lobbying organizations that spend millions to sell the idea of surrendering to the drug culture, are undoing decades of drug education work in America – all while the federal government (and many states) turn a blind eye to the social, economic and legal chaos being inflicted upon us,” notes Jessica Spencer, Florida Statewide Coalition Director for VoteNo2.org.

In a new study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, new evidence has emerged regarding the prevalence of pro-pot messages through Twitter and other social media outlets.

pro pot tweetYouth Regularly receive Pro-marijuana Tweets

Hundreds of thousands of American youth are following marijuana-related Twitter accounts and getting pro-pot messages several times each day, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.

The tweets are cause for concern, they said, because young people are thought to be especially responsive to social media influences. In addition, patterns of drug use tend to be established in a person’s late teens and early 20s.

In a study published online June 27 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the Washington University team analyzed messages tweeted from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, by a Twitter account called Weed Tweets@stillblazintho. Among pro-marijuana accounts, this one was selected because it has the most Twitter followers — about 1 million. During the eight-month study period, the account posted an average of 11 tweets per day.
“As people are becoming more accepting of marijuana use and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, it is important to remember that it remains a dangerous drug of abuse,” said principal investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. “I’ve been studying what is influencing attitudes to change dramatically and where people may be getting messages about marijuana that are leading them to believe the drug is not hazardous.”

Although 19 states now allow marijuana use for medical purposes, much of the evidence for its effectiveness remains anecdotal. Even as Americans are relaxing their attitudes about marijuana, in 2011 marijuana contributed to more than 455,000 emergency room visits in the United States, federal research shows. Some 13 percent of those patients were ages 12 to 17.

seth-rogen-nancy-grace-665x385

For a larger view click on the image.

A majority of Americans favor legalizing recreational use of the drug, and 60 percent of high school seniors report they don’t believe regular marijuana use is harmful. A recent report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said that more Americans are using cannabis as their perception of the health risk declines. The report stated that for youth and young adults, “more permissive cannabis regulations correlate with decreases in the perceived risk of use.”

Cavazos-Rehg said Twitter also is influencing young people’s attitudes about the drug. Studying Weed Tweets, the team counted 2,285 tweets during the eight-month study. Of those, 82 percent were positive about the drug, 18 percent were either neutral or did not focus on marijuana, and 0.3 percent expressed negative attitudes about it.

Many of the tweets were meant to be humorous. Others implied that marijuana helps a person feel good or relax, and some mentioned different ways to get high.

With the help of a data analysis firm, the investigators found that of those receiving the tweets, 73 percent were under 19. Fifty-four percent were 17 to 19 years old, and almost 20 percent were 16 or younger. About 22 percent were 20 to 24 years of age. Only 5 percent of the followers were 25 or older.

“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”

Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.

“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”

The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.

“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics.

The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.

“There are celebrities who tweet to hundreds of thousands of followers, and it turns out a Twitter handle that promotes substance use can be equally popular,” she said. “Because there’s not much regulation of social media platforms, that could lead to potentially harmful messages being distributed. Regulating this sort of thing is going to be challenging, but the more we can provide evidence that harmful messages are being received by vulnerable kids, the more likely it is we can have a discussion about the types of regulation that might be appropriate.”

This study was funded by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).