Pretty much everyone on Twitter loves marijuana and/or supports its legalization, according to a new study.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis collected more than 7.6 million marijuana-related tweets during a one-month period in early 2014 and analyzed a random sample of 7,000 of the posts from users in the top 25th percentile for number of followers and Klout score. They found that 77 percent of the tweets were either pro-marijuana or expressed support for policy changes like legalization or decriminalization. Just five percent were considered anti-marijuana. The rest had a sentiment that was either neutral or couldn’t be determined.
The researchers calculated that across all of Twitter, approximately one out of every 2,000 tweets is about marijuana.
The study, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that there were 15 times as many pro-marijuana and pro-legalization tweets sent as anti-pot tweets, and those friendly to cannabis use or policy reform had a total of more than 50 million Twitter followers, about 12 times more than those tweeting anti-marijuana messages.
The most commonly used marijuana-related keyword in the tweets was “weed.” Blunts are by far the most tweeted about method to ingest marijuana, followed by bongs and joints, though the researchers don’t appear to have included use of the word “vape” in their analysis. “Sativa” was tweeted slightly more frequently than “indica,” but Twitter users sure do love to talk specifically about “kush.”
When analyzing the pro-marijuana or pro-legalization tweets, researchers identified several common themes. Thirty-two percent expressed intent to use or craving marijuana (for example, “Good weed is all I’ll need”). Seventeen percent indicated frequent, heavy or regular use of marijuana (“I smoke a lot of weed to keep them bitches off my mind”). Thirteen percent weighed in on the debate about changing marijuana laws (“Government is slowly losing the war on legalizing weed”). Other common themes included marijuana’s relation to sex or attractiveness (“Boys that share their weed are the boys who get laid”), stress relief (“A blunt a day keeps the drama away”) or the use of the drug by celebrities (“I love Miley cause she’s a stoner & she doesn’t care what people think”).
Among anti-marijuana tweets, the most common theme, at 26 percent, is that marijuana users are losers or unproductive (“Weed, drugs, clothes, and ‘swag’ does NOT make you a boss; Diplomas, degrees, and jobs do”). Twenty-two percent expressed the notion that marijuana use is unattractive or gross (“Y’all gotta stop trying to make smoking sexy; Weed isn’t cute; Somebody is smoking weed in the bathroom and it smells like shit”). Anti-marijuana tweets also frequently included references to celebrities (“Justin Bieber caught smoking weed again?! He needs to chill”).
The researchers, who were funded by a federal grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, probably weren’t that familiar with marijuana culture going into the study, as they admitted to using UrbanDictionary.com to help compile their list of cannabis-related search terms.
In analyzing the demographics of those who tweeted about weed, they found that most of the marijuana-related messages that come from influential Twitter users (high Klout scores and a large number of followers) are pro-marijuana or pro-legalization and that most of the tweeters are young people and African-Americans.
In the study, the researchers expressed concern about the “potential for pro-marijuana tweets to facilitate the marijuana use behaviors for the receivers of these tweets” but admitted in a press release that “we can’t yet link pro-pot tweets to actual drug use.”
“The concern that we have about pro-marijuana Twitter chatter is the potential for social contagion and increased marijuana use in adolescents,” they wrote.
“Peer pressure does not have to be overt; even the mere perception that one will gain peer approval increases risk for substance use.” They speculated that “young people boast about their marijuana use behaviors on Twitter to gain approval from peer groups and/or increase their social status within a circle of friends who socially value marijuana use behaviors.”
Then again, much of the talk about marijuana might just have to do with the fact that “marijuana policy reform is currently a hot topic and marijuana use is increasingly becoming more tolerated in our society.”
In the final analysis, all the researchers could be sure of is that “Twitter is a social media platform that facilitates chatter about marijuana.”