Dr. Sharon Sznitman, School of Public Health, University of Haifa, Israel
Increasingly more jurisdictions around the world have legalized Medical Cannabis (MC) for various indications. Israel has been running a MC program since the late 1990s (recreational cannabis use remains illegal). MC policies in Israel and elsewhere have generated scientific and political debate regarding possible unintended spillover effects. A central question is whether MC legalization make recreational cannabis use more socially acceptable, thus leading to increased recreational use.
In this presentation I will summarize results of a serious of studies conducted in Israel where we investigate attitudes towards MC and how media may play a role in forming attitudes towards MC and in turn influence attitudes towards recreational cannabis. We focus on media coverage because it is one of the major factors that influences public policy through shaping public opinion on this issue.
Combined, the results suggest that media coverage of MC may influence public attitudes toward recreational cannabis. This may be particularly true for news stories presented as patient testimonials. Because such media stories continue to be commonplace, it is important to examine potential spillover effects of this coverage on public perceptions of recreational cannabis. Cannabis prevention programs should address the role of media coverage in shaping public opinion, as well as address the distinction between medical and recreational cannabis use.
Sznitman, S. R., & Bretteville-Jensen, A. L. (2015). Public opinion and medical cannabis policies: examining the role of underlying beliefs and national medical cannabis policies. Harm. Reduct. J., 12, 46.
Sznitman, S. R., & Lewis, N. (2015). Is cannabis an illicit drug or a medicine? A quantitative framing analysis of Israeli newspaper coverage. Int. J. Drug Policy, 26, 446-452.
Sznitman, S. R., & Lewis, N. (2018). Examining effects of medical cannabis narratives on beliefs, attitudes, and intentions related to recreational cannabis: A web-based randomized experiment. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 185, 219-225.