Webinar Recap: Navigating Cannabis Legal & Health Communications

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Every year, more and more states are legalizing the non-medical use of cannabis, leaving citizens with a lot of questions about safe and legal use. The challenge facing public health departments is communicating compelling health risks in the age of cannabis legalization. Here are 3 key takeaways from our recent webinar: “Cannabis Is Going Legal, Now What? Strategies for Navigating Legal and Health Communications.”

Campaigns must address gaps in both medical and legal knowledge around Cannabis

Throughout our research in five states, with 76 focus groups, 33 in-depth interviews, and four online surveys (n=5,079), we were able to identify consistent knowledge gaps around safe and legal use. We grouped these into two buckets: legal knowledge gaps and health knowledge gaps.

Most of the people we interviewed had little to no knowledge about the laws around legalized cannabis. They had questions about where they could use, how much they could buy, if they could grow plants themselves, and the potential consequences of driving under the influence. In addition to confusion about the law, we evaluated how risky audiences perceived use to be depending on various circumstances. Participants rated each statement as no/low risk or moderate/great risk.

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To effectively motivate behavior change, it’s important to tailor messaging to priority, at-risk segmentations

In today’s communications world, people consciously or subconsciously ignore messages that they perceive as irrelevant to them, so it’s important that messaging is highly customized and relevant for your audiences. In our research, we identified four priority audience segments:

  • Adults 21+ who may use or be interested in using non-medical cannabis
  • Mothers who are breastfeeding or pregnant and are unaware of the risks of their own cannabis use
  • Youth under the legal age, from 13 to 20
  • Parents, mentors, or guardians who have an influential role in youths’ lives

Each of these audiences has unique reasons for use. These motivations and personal experiences shape their beliefs and perceptions of the substance and its risk while posing barriers to education. It’s essential that we understand the reasons for use and the perceived value that cannabis gives each priority audience so that our messages reflect their reality and empathize with what they’re experiencing.

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READ MORE: Learn about our approach to cannabis health communications.

Empathetic community management is vital in generating meaningful, two-way campaign interactions

When you’re running a cannabis legal or health communications campaign, the audience will have a lot of questions, which requires strong community management. Community management is the process of actively monitoring and responding to questions on campaign channels, especially on social media. Good or bad comments can be leveraged through community management as opportunities to change people’s perceptions, knowledge, behaviors, and beliefs.

When developing your community management strategy for legal and health communication campaigns there are 3 major considerations to apply:

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If you’d like to learn more about bringing a cannabis communications campaign to your community, please contact our team.


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