How Reddit Influences Cannabis Legalization around the World

Social media is a strong instrument in molding political strife. For instance, a recent analysis that looked at Reddit posts traversing over a decade reveals what types of discussions may have sparked the public’s metamorphosis in favor of cannabis legalization.

A Brown University investigator used computer learning to study upwards of three million Reddit posts from 2009 to 2019—a vital timeline in the state-level cannabis legalization advancement—to sufficiently comprehend the online discussions that have compelled Redditors to back cannabis reform.

A dissertation written by Ph.D. candidate Babak Hemmatian, formally known as “Taking the High Road: A Big Data Investigation of Natural Discourse in the Emerging U.S. Consensus about cannabis Legalization,” displayed interesting tendencies. Notably, it appears that while communicating personal accounts has historically been a major factor in altering hearts and minds, people publishing more generalized, moral judgment-based discussions was a clear forerunner for state-level cannabis reform.

“cannabis legalization is a very unique topic in how a bipartisan agreement was achieved in a matter of years while the American civilization was otherwise becoming more split,” Hemmatian told a few cannabis news outlets. “I wanted to find out if the way the public talks about cannabis facilitated this paradigm shift, and how the societal alterations in attitudes, subsequently, influenced how we speak about cannabis.”

There were a few thrilling themes noted in the study. For instance, talks of the health effects of cannabis “only ramped up after cannabis legalization was all but finsihed, and only in casual spaces on Reddit.” Legal importance of cannabis reform, however, “were not mainly talked about even following cannabis legalization had passed in majority of the states.”

“Both topics are highly relevant to whether and how the substance should be de-regulated, but was ignored in decision-making and at best attended to once the societal decision was already made,” the study author said.

“While not the most persuasive approach according to previous research, character judgments may have still pushed people who were on the fence but not diametrically opposed to legalization over to the pro-legalization camp,” he continued. “This is because they highly simplify decision-making: One no longer needs to know the complicated effects of cannabis on health, the economy, and the society to make up their mind; they just need to think through their moral principles. This may have been comforting during a transition period when the uncertainty surrounding cannabis’s status would have been anxiety-inducing for many folks.”

The study bookends that “early cannabis legalization currents varied on Character judgments while the final blows were smashed into the concept of cannabis prohibition with Plot-driven plans revolving around weed politics and criminality.”

Hermitian and his investigation team at Brown University aren’t the only investigators interested in probing the intersection of cannabis reform and social media.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it intends to use Reddit and other databases to achieve a better comprehension of public health matters concerning the use of CBD and additional cannabis derivatives like the controversial delta-8 THC (which many states are beginning to outlaw outright.)

The department also looks to form a system of identifying “safety signs and usage behaviors linked with materializing CDPs in real-time.” That encompasses delta-8 THC, a cannabinoid that the FDA recently alerted patients about, as it has not yet been studied.

A peer-reviewed investigation printed in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence a few years ago studied more than two million comments located on the site’s largest cannabis-affiliated subreddit from 2010 to 2016. The analysis team made a sequence of discoveries, including a handful that might seem obvious to regular patients (such as dabbing’s rise in popularity, yet users still mostly favor traditional smoking cannabis.) 

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