Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jan 2015
Source: Express & Star (UK)
Copyright: Express & Star, 2015


Experts have raised concerns about a thriving Twitter cannabis culture.

During a single month, researchers identified more than seven million
tweets referring to marijuana, with "pro-pot" messages outnumbering
those opposed to the drug by 15 to one.

Most of those sending and receiving "pot tweets" were under the age of
25, and many in their teens, said the team.

US psychiatrist and lead author Dr Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, from the
Washington University Institute for Public Health, said: "It's a
concern because frequent marijuana use can affect brain structures and
interfere with cognitive function, emotional development and academic

"The younger people are when they begin using marijuana, the more
likely they are to become dependent. A lot of young people will phase
out of marijuana use as they get older, but unfortunately, we're not
good at predicting who those individuals are."

The findings, reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health, follow a
computer search of tweets conducted between February 5 and March 5
last year.

Working with social media analytics company Simply Measured, the
researchers looked for every tweet that mentioned marijuana.

Using search terms such as "joint", "blunt", "weed", "stoner" and
"bong", the team turned up more than 7.6 million tweets referencing
the drug.

An examination of a random sample of almost 7,000 tweets from these
accounts revealed that 77% were pro-marijuana, 5% against, and 18%

Dr Cavazos-Rehg added: "Many people believe marijuana use is harmless,
and social media conversations almost certainly drive some of those
opinions, making the drug appear socially acceptable.

"Although we can't yet link pro-pot tweets to actual drug use, we
should be worried because many people are receiving these messages are
at an age when they are most likely to experiment with drugs and
develop problems with substance use."

People tweeting pro-marijuana messages had more than 50 million
Twitter followers - around 12 times more than those tweeting
anti-marijuana messages.

Pro-pot tweets were most commonly aimed at encouraging use of cannabis
and its legalisation, and made claims about the drug's health benefit.

And 10% of the pro-marijuana tweets were sent by individuals who said
they were taking the drug or high at the time.

Anti-marijuana tweets often states that the drug's users were "losers"
or unproductive, or that taking cannabis is unattractive.

They also stressed that the drug was harmful, or that the person
tweeting was against legalisation.

The scientists focused their analysis on Twitter accounts with more
than 775 followers, as well as those with "Klout scores" of 44 and

A Klout score measures social media influences on a scale of one to
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