Building harm reduction focused cannabis public education materials: An example of knowledge translation with previously stigmatized communities.
Background: The legalization of cannabis in Canada in 2018 created a strong imperative to engage young-adult cannabis consumers with harm reduction information. This project sought to determine where young-adult cannabis consumers in Canada were obtaining information about the drug, what they wanted to learn, and who they trusted to deliver the information, in order to build more effective public education campaigns.
Methods: A mixed methods approach engaged 1,598 Canadian cannabis consumers (age 18-30) via an online survey, and reached another 89 via focus groups. We then utilized students in a Bachelor of Creative Advertising program to develop new public education materials based on the analysis of our qualitative and quantitative data.
Results: Cannabis consumers are primarily obtaining information about the drug from peers, but they often do not trust peers to provide accurate information. Respondents had high levels of trust in academic sources but were having difficulty obtaining information from these sources. Additionally, respondents were exposed to frequent myths about cannabis and had difficulty separating true harms from hyperbolic myths. Finally, they had little knowledge or access to harm reduction information about cannabis consumption practices. The project team used this information to build a new public education campaign utilizing imagery and language created by young-adults and featuring cannabis experts dispelling myths in video segments.
Conclusion: This project utilized data from young-adult Canadian cannabis consumers to identify gaps in consumers’ knowledge and build a new public education campaign intended to dispel myths about cannabis and engage previously stigmatized groups. Such efforts will be key as more countries legalize cannabis. Our data suggest that new knowledge translation efforts will need to be undertaken alongside any reforms of drugs regulations. Our approach of combining peer created content and access to expert advice may prove to be one effective model in regulated cannabis spaces.