Researchers are warning that YouTube videos portraying a particular type of cannabis consumption is selling the potentially dangerous idea to young viewers who think it’s cool and hip.
“Unrestricted access to the large volume of YouTube videos portraying cannabis vaping as fun and joyful could increase uptake among adolescents,” warns University of Queensland PhD candidate Carmen Lim, the lead author of a recently published study from UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research (NCYSUR).
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The researchers looked at 200 YouTube videos on the topic of cannabis vaping, and found more than half of them didn’t have any sort of age limit to prevent young viewers watching them.
In addition, the videos skew towards celebrating the consumption rather than remaining strictly informative or warning of the dangers.
The most popular video was a celebratory one with more than four million views, while no videos warning of potential dangers cracked more than one million.
“Only around 25 per cent of cannabis vaping-related videos communicate the potential harms of cannabis vaping,” NCYSUR emerging leadership fellow and co-lead author Dr Gary Chan said.
The videos from 2016 – 2020 were arranged into categories based on whether they were an advertisement, product review, celebratory, reflective, how-to, or warning.
The instructional videos had more than five million views in total while those celebrating vaping cannabis had more than seven million.
The researchers said that cannabis has become more potent in the past 20 years, and that vaping has recently emerged as a “novel method of administration”.
The researchers said their study is the first of its kind since parts of the US began legislating recreational marijuana, and noted recent studies overseas that found 10 per cent of high school students had vaped cannabis.
Cannabis is typically vaped using cartridges containing THC oil, although some more expensive devices are able to vaporise leaf cannabis without turning it into oil first.
In Australia, cannabis is not legal, which makes it harder but not impossible to procure.
THC cartridges that can be vaped can be found in dispensaries in the United States but in Australia they require additional work.
While they are sometimes available on the black market, there are also websites selling kits they claim can “turn your favourite legal wax into e-liquid”.
CBD oil, a derivative of the same plant cannabis comes from but without the Tetrahydrocannabinol that gets you “high”, is legal under certain circumstances.
In December, the Therapeutic Goods Administration made its final decision to make certain low-dose CBD products (up to 150mg/day) a Schedule 3 (Pharamacist Only Medicine) drug rather than a Schedule 4 (Prescription Medicine).
This means you’d be able to buy CBD oil over the counter at your pharmacy if it’s been approved by the TGA, but as of December there were no products that had met the criteria.