As Marijuana Legalization Takes Effect On Instagram, Cannabis Marketing Is Reshaped

As marijuana legalization takes effect, marketing on Instagram is changing. According to a recent study, marijuana legalization has drastically changed cannabis marketing on Instagram.

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The study entitled “From dealing with influencing: Online marketing of cannabis on Instagram” and published in the international journal Crime, Media, Culture last month. Researchers Silje Anderdal Bakken and Sidsel Kirstine Harder from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Further compared 60 Instagram profiles belonging to illegal Swedish drug dealers to 70 cannabis influencers’ profiles based in the United States or Canada. Most of them belong to women.

They found out that cannabis influencers on Instagram are changing the stereotyped characteristics of illegal cannabis culture. As a result, cannabis has evolved from a largely male-dominated market to one where it is seen as a desirable accessory among certain feminine lifestyles.

Influencers & Drug Dealers

“The role of influencers in transforming cannabis culture to become more mainstream and acceptable to women could potentially influence cannabis cultures worldwide. As well as ongoing legalization debates,” reads the study.

Platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok don’t allow cannabis-related businesses to advertise their products or services on their platforms. As a result, cannabis influencers operate in a legal gray area. In which they can advertise their personal use and recommendations of cannabis without offering direct sales.

According to the study, while illegal dealers sell cannabis anonymously, influencers integrate cannabis into their everyday lives.

The study showed how social media marketing might impact a cultural shift toward cannabis becoming a normalized practice. In addition, it can trigger a cultural change.

Researchers further noted that the most common features they shared were anonymity, risk calculation, and amateurism. Profiles rarely included human features, and images of their products were accompanied by short captions.

Additionally, the researchers looked at Instagram’s public profiles of 70 cannabis influencers located in the United States and Canada. Focusing on images and related text, including captions, comments, and short profiles with bios.

Gender Differences

In spite of no gender indications in any of the 60 dealer profiles considered in the study. Nearly all cannabis influencers identified themselves as women. (less than 10% of the 70 collected influencer profiles did not show women’s names or bodies)

Cannabis influencers display engaging content images. In fact, some of them display feminine objects and themes to indicate their gender and cannabis use.

Influencers post cannabis on Instagram in a stylish way, by posting photographic landscapes of cannabis fields. More commonly, by designing flat lays (pictures taken from above) and presenting cannabis in colors such as pink and white. Further different from the dusty green and brown colors of raw cannabis shown by the dealers considered in the study.

Rather than showcasing their products on Instagram, drug dealers use Instagram to connect with potential customers. The tactic is to provide followers with information about encrypted apps, such as Wickr or Telegram. Utilizing these to finalize the purchase of cannabis products.

Influencers use cannabis to share their own personal stories and share how they use it.

Researchers found that cannabis dealers on Instagram reinforce stereotypes about subculture, masculinity, and risky transactions. Although cannabis influencers present cannabis and related products as natural and safe for anyone attracted to their lifestyle.

Female Cannabis Influencers

Researchers have observed in particular that female cannabis influencers portray their bodies in a very feminine, fashionable, and sexual way. On the other hand, they actively enjoy “getting stoned” and recommend it to other women.

Cannabis use may be interpreted as an effort to mainstream an illegal subculture.

On the other hand, the illegal dealer profiles don’t post any personal information.

In today’s cannabis industry, social acceptance promotes cannabis smoking among women, say, researchers.

“Social media like Instagram allows cannabis influencers to spread their messages about cannabis as an accepted consumption product to millions of people of diverse ages, genders, and nationalities. While all the illegal dealer profiles observed on Instagram maintain a focus on men or gender neutrality in their presentation of products, the cannabis influencers present themselves as women and their cannabis products as ordinary or ideal women’s accessories,” the study concludes.

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