As the marijuana industry moves into our state, communities are questioning if the industry will utilize similar advertising and marketing techniques as Big Tobacco companies.
On Nov. 29 in the Forum, Joy LaGrutta, FSU’s coordinator of alcohol and drug education and prevention, hosted a film screening of “Then and Now,” a short film comparing the marijuana industry to the tobacco industry.
“Then and Now” discussed the marketing techniques of the tobacco industry and how tobacco ads generally target vulnerable populations based on research published by the public health field. These populations include soldiers, teens and people with mental health issues. The film suggests the marijuana industry could similarly market its own products.
As Big Tobacco started booming in the 1950s, studies began to surface revealing the link between tobacco use and lung cancer.
Since the federal government still ranks marijuana as a Schedule I drug, researchers rarely ever get approved to study marijuana products because the grants they apply for are supported by federal funds. LaGrutta said although it is legal to research human behavior on marijuana, there are not enough studies done to reveal the adverse effects.
“It’s way ahead of research. So typically, when a drug comes to the market you have like 15 years of clinical trials and research, and that’s how a drug comes to be offered to the public. Marijuana came because it got voted on, and six months later, they had to do something to make it available. … A lot of it is trial and error, and I think the video is showing people aren’t totally aware of how some of these marijuana effects are going to affect them,” LaGrutta said.
She added, the age range most influenced by tobacco and marijuana are people 18 – 22. Young people are more vulnerable to drug and alcohol use since their brains have not fully developed.
“We know just from looking at statistics that college students represent the age group that is most likely to experiment with new things,” she said.
LaGrutta predicts the marijuana market will specifically target college students through advertisements based on this data.
Senior Jeneba Mansaray said, “Marijuana can help with anxiety and college is one of the places where people experience a lot of anxiety. I think it is targeted in that way.”
According to LaGrutta, Massachusetts is consciously considering how to market marijuana because of the mistakes made in other states.
Senior Eveanna Marshall said if the marijuana industry does advertise to college students, there are going to be serious problems on dry campuses. “It is a difficult situation because as a college, student you’re an adult, but being at a university, you’re subjected to certain rules and things of that nature. We know this is a dry campus. We aren’t allowed to have any alcohol, drugs or marijuana.”
Colleges get a lot of their funding from the federal government and even though states are making marijuana legal, the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug. This means colleges are in a tough situation since they are federally affiliated and federal law always “supersedes” state law, LaGrutta said.
Senior Jamal Kirk said while the state may be legalizing marijuana, businesses are still strictly enforcing drug tests. “Your internships are in jeopardy if they drug test. I’ve seen people lose opportunities for smoking.”
Marijuana can also negatively impact students’ GPAs or prevent them from reaching their max potential, LaGrutta said.
She added, “Always keep in mind that in college you have a goal. You’re paying a lot of money for the goal, and as soon as you see marijuana getting in the way of that, that’s when you kind of have to think twice.”