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Using Google Trends to assess public interest in cannabis during elections with cannabis legislation

Pasricha, Ishan
Sanders, Mac
Bibens, Michael
Vassar, Matt
Introduction: In the United States, the legalization of cannabis has been a source of political controversy. As of November 2018, thirty-three states have legalized the prescription of medicinal cannabis, and ten states have legalized both medicinal and recreational cannabis. Many studies have examined how the popularity of Google searches for health-related topics change over time using a tool called Google Trends. However, Google Trends has not been used to examine whether the popularity of Google searches for cannabis change following state elections with cannabis-related legislation.
Methods: Using Google Trends' search filters we searched the word "cannabis" in nine states and Washington D.C. from May 1st, 2008 through May 1st, 2018. Approximations of public interest in cannabis were generated by Google Trends. We then calculated the mean public interest in cannabis for the twelve months before and after each state participated in elections containing cannabis-related legislation.
Conclusion: Mean public interest in cannabis increased following elections containing cannabis-related legislation. Future studies should be conducted to assess the quality of information that the public finds when searching for cannabis-related health information online.