Newly-disclosed Health Canada research shows a federal marijuana education campaign is ineffectual. Teenagers questioned by government pollsters said they assumed legalization signaled Parliament’s approval of cannabis.
“I guess if it’s going to be legal it can’t be that bad,” pollsters with Corporate Research Associates quoted one respondent in Health Canada focus groups. “Is weed really addictive?” asked another. “Pot is moving from a criminal offence to a socially acceptable activity,” said a third.
Findings were based on twelve federal focus groups with teenagers in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Sudbury and Québec City. The health department paid $87,372 for the research Social Media Focus Groups With Youth.
“The upcoming legalization of marijuana is clearly top of mind and a topic of considerable interest to youth,” said Social Media Focus; “Some questioned where it will be purchased, and how it might interact with alcohol use.”
The report also questioned the value of Health Canada education campaigns geared to social media advertisements. Cabinet last year committed $9.2 million in annual funding for cannabis awareness ads, mainly on Facebook and other social media sites. Only a fraction of funding, some $1 million, has been spent to date though a legalization bill is awaiting final passage in the Commons.
“Ads on social media are considered an annoyance to most youth and something they try to avoid,” wrote Corporate Research. “Most do not use an ad blocker, but rather simply skip or ignore the ad whenever possible.”
“Youth do not profess to look for health-related information,” said the report; “They do not want to feel as if they are being ‘force fed’ information”; “Youth consistently expressed frustration with the high volume of advertisements on social media and, in most cases, consider them a significant annoyance. Youth are clearly cynical of ads and work to avoid or ignore them whenever possible.”
Researchers noted Canadian teenagers remain hostile to social media marketing though they use the medium constantly. “Most, in fact, keep their Smartphones close 24 hours a day, seven days a week, typically taking their Smartphone to bed with them at night,” said the report.
Bill C-45 An Act Respecting Cannabis passed the Senate June 7. The bill would permit unlimited private storage of dried cannabis, public possession of up to 30 grams, and home cultivation of up to four marijuana plants subject to local option. Two provinces to date, Manitoba and Québec, have proposed to ban home grows.
The Commons will take up the Senate’s version of the bill this week. “We feel very confident that we had a very good piece of legislation,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told reporters.