Dartmouth Lights Up Teen Cannabis Habits in New Study


It was just about a year ago when I first reported on a study about the cannabis consumption habits of U.S. consumers in an article titled, Dartmouth Researchers High on Facebook Ads for Marijuana Study – AdWeek. The Dartmouth College researchers surveyed more than 2,000 cannabis consumers recruited via Facebook ads. The ads linked to an 80+ online questionnaire, underscoring the fact that Facebook is the world’s largest focus group.


So, I wasn’t too surprised when I reached out to the researchers a year later to find them improving their methodologies and honing in on more specific demographic targeting from which to glean new insights. They were still leveraging Facebook ads for their newest study, but had shifted their focus to teen usage (14 – 18 year olds), a more difficult population to study. They also expanded the number of survey participants to 2,630 cannabis consuming youth, and were more statistically balanced in terms of geographic reach.


Using a single Facebook ad (see below), the researchers were able to deliver an incredibly strong 4+% Click-thru-Rate (CTR) for their latest study.  Armed with a total ad budget of just around $350, the researchers were able to drive their cost of completed survey way down to just 27-cents ($0.27), an incredibly low cost of acquisition (COA), compared to other panel acquisition methods.


Dartmouth cannabis research


Using a variety of statistical analyses, the study examined associations between how youth use cannabis and aspects of medical and recreational cannabis laws.


The results revealed that youth living in states where cannabis has been legal for a longer duration or in states with a higher number of dispensaries per capita, were more likely to have tried vaping and edibles.  Additionally, youth living in medical cannabis states that permit home cultivation of cannabis were more likely to have tried edibles and to have started using them at a younger age, than youth living in medical cannabis states that do not permit home cultivation.


In terms of targeting minors, according to Jacob Borodovsky at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine’s Center for Technology and Behavioral Health,

“We took multiple precautions in how we designed the study because youth under age 18 are a vulnerable population. We worked in collaboration with the Dartmouth Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects to employ a study design that was ethical, practical, and wouldn’t be misconstrued by study participants as endorsing cannabis use.”


“Many of the medical and recreational cannabis laws are designed very differently (e.g., some allow dispensaries and some don’t, some allow home cultivation and some don’t, etc.), and those differences are important to study in terms of how they affect population-level patterns of cannabis use. Data from our study suggest that the way that a medical cannabis law is designed is cross-sectionally related to differential patterns of cannabis vaping and edible use within this sample of high-risk youth,” commented Mr. Borodovsky.


What’s next for the Dartmouth researchers? “Dabbing and concentrates are a primary focus of a series of surveys that we intend to conduct next. We are also trying to better understand patterns of cannabis home cultivation and edible use among adults to help inform policy designs.” added Mr. Borodovsky.


Thanks to the work of these researchers, we can begin to better understand how these laws impact usage among specific demographic segments of the population.  Furthermore, the use of Facebook as a statistically sound methodological means of conducting targeted and rapid data collection to study patterns of cannabis use is going to be a tremendous value as the nation begins to assess the positive and negative effects cannabis laws have on our population.



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