Cannabis dispensary online marketing practices in response to COVID-19 lockdowns

Pamela M. Ling, Eric Crosbie, Louisa M. Holmes, Christine Hoang, Samantha Hoeper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by increases in cannabis consumption, which might relate to dispensary marketing activities. As part of an ongoing project monitoring cannabis dispensary websites in Northern California and Reno, Nevada, we noticed many websites added announcements and “pop-up” communications in response to lockdowns. This brief report describes the cannabis dispensary website communications related to COVID-19 with the aim to provide insight into emerging marketing messages that may increase cannabis consumption in times of crisis. Methods: Content analysis of COVID-19 announcements present on cannabis dispensary websites in San Francisco/Alameda Counties (n = 32), and the Reno area (n = 15) in April-May 2020 shortly after lockdowns were implemented. Results: COVID-19 announcements were present on 25/32 (78%) of dispensary websites in San Francisco/Alameda and 9/15 (60%) of websites in the Reno area. Almost all COVID-19 announcements (88% San Francisco/Alameda, 89% Reno) announced operational changes such as delivery or curbside pickup services, 72% and 56% respectively announced patron/employee safety measures. Health related messages were present; about half of website announcements referred to government/health authorities, 44% of Reno area announcements used healthcare rhetoric, and some San Francisco/Alameda announcements included suggestions for using cannabis to mitigate infection risk or manage anxiety. Conclusions: Most cannabis dispensaries in the study region implemented COVID-19 pandemic operational changes to maintain product availability, and many positioned their identity with health–either by referring to health authorities, or using health rhetoric, and a minority gave health advice. Cannabis dispensary websites provide a timely snapshot of marketing practices that may contribute to increases in cannabis use during stressful events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1116-1119
Number of pages4
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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