Study: Using ‘Cannabis’ Over ‘Marijuana’ Doesn’t Change Perceptions

A recent study investigating social responses to the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” found that word choice does not influence the public’s perception of the plant.

Full story after the jump.

Using the term ‘cannabis’ instead of ‘marijuana’ does not influence the public’s perception of or attitude toward the plant, according to research published in the journal PLOS One. The study did find differences in perception when the word ‘medical’ is used in conjunction with ‘marijuana’ or ‘cannabis.’

About 43 percent of respondents said that both ‘marijuana’ and ‘cannabis’ were “morally acceptable” compared to about 26 percent who said ‘marijuana’ was “morally wrong” and about 20 percent who felt the same about ‘cannabis.’ The remaining respondents said they were “not sure.”

Comparatively, near 60 percent of participants said ‘medical marijuana‘ was “morally acceptable” along with about 63 percent who felt the same about ‘medical cannabis.’ About 15 percent said ‘medical marijuana’ was “morally wrong,” and about 12 percent said ‘medical cannabis’ was “morally wrong,” the rest of the field were “not sure.”

“The name frame (‘marijuana’ versus ‘cannabis’) has no impact on opinion toward the drug. Our results thus undermine the notion — widely espoused by policy advocates — that abandoning the word ‘marijuana’ for ‘cannabis’ by itself will boost the prospects for reform or soften public attitudes toward the drug.” – “Has the ‘M’ word been framed? Marijuana, cannabis, and public opinion,” Oct. 31, 2019, PLOS One

The researchers note an increase in news stories using the word ‘cannabis’ since 2013 – which coincides with a spike in stories with ‘marijuana’ to over 25,000 by 2014 – and a sharp decrease over three years in stories using ‘marijuana’ to a little over 20,000, while ‘cannabis’ stories rose from about 3,000 in 2014 to about 6,000 in 2017.

The study also found that 23 of the 33 states with some form of legal cannabis access are using ‘marijuana’ in their legislation over ‘cannabis.’

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