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Study examines the use of social media by marijuana dispensaries

Twitter, one of the most public social networks, is more than a forum for social chatter, it can provide valuable data to researchers seeking to understand market trends and communication patterns in the cannabis industry.

A new study by RTI International, published in July in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, identified common Twitter behaviors among cannabis dispensaries in California, providing an additional outlet for understanding how retail outlets engage with patients and other consumers.

“Twitter gives policymakers, stakeholders and researchers the ability to see trends in the cannabis market in real time,” said Nicholas Peiper, PhD, author of the study and behavioral epidemiologist at RTI. 

The study tracked 12 Twitter behaviors such as hashtags, retweets, embedded media, and hyperlinks from a sample of 3,200 tweets from 119 dispensaries in Greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, two California metro areas with large cannabis markets.

RTI experts found that the most concentrated and strongly connected dispensaries in both cities had higher daily activity, more frequent user engagement, and increased usage of video, images, keywords and hyperlinks.

This was among the first studies to evaluate Twitter behavior among dispensaries. The study analyzed tweets from February 2016, before California voters passed Proposition 64 in November, which legalized the recreational use of cannabis for people over 21. Future Twitter studies could analyze the implications of this and other policy changes.

To learn about RTI’s marijuana research, visit our Emerging Issues page.