Int J Drug Policy. 2021 Jul 9;97:103361. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103361. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: The use of recreational cannabis by adults was legalized in Canada in 2018 (The Cannabis Act, 17 October 2018). This change in drug policy indirectly opened the doors to broader uses, including those for health-related conditions. As a first step towards understanding ethical, legal, and social shifts on this landscape, we examined messaging surrounding medical cannabis and health in Canadian news media before and after legalization.

METHODS: We retrieved news articles about medical cannabis and health from Canadian sources (2010-2020). Deductive and inductive content analytic approaches were applied to code eligible articles for both a priori ethical, legal, social, and issues, and emergent themes. Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney U tests were used to test for thematic changes pre- and post-legalization.

RESULTS: Two hundred and sixteen (216) articles met inclusion criteria. Analysis yielded three themes and eight subthemes, comprising 4931 coded references. The a priori theme of Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (access, benefits/risks of medical cannabis, public engagement, and conflicts of interest) dominated news media coverage across the decade (coded in 99% of articles). The emergent theme of Medical Applications (therapeutic use of cannabis, consumption considerations, comparisons to other drug and treatment options) was coded in 86% of articles; Resource Issues (research and education) in 50%. We found little discourse on ethics issues specific to exceptional populations. Coverage on aspects of access declined significantly post-legalization.

CONCLUSION: Capturing the push of Canadian news coverage of medical cannabis is a powerful means of understanding how public opinions on the subject are shaped and then, by extension, inform public policy for well-being and healthcare. Continued examination of these issues, public consultation, engagement with diverse populations such as people with disabilities and neurologic and mental health conditions, and integration of diverse cultural views into the policy discourse are critical steps for future research and action.

PMID:34252784 | DOI:10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103361

Source: ncbi 2

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