Cannabis legalization has resulted in the proliferation of cannabis products. Participants’ familiarity with terms for these products may have implications for assessment, as unfamiliarity with particular terms may result in under-reports of use.
A convenience sample of 861 college students from one U.S. university completed a survey in the spring of 2020 about their familiarity with a variety of cannabis product terms and use of a variety of cannabis products.
Participants varied in their familiarity with cannabis product terms. For example, with regard to terms for cannabis concentrates with very high concentrations of THC, 85% of participants reported being familiar with the term “wax pen or THC oil,” but only 27% reported being familiar with the term “butane hash oil (BHO)” (i.e., the oil that composes most concentrates). Moreover, of participants who reported use of concentrates based on selecting pictures of the products they had used (n = 324, 40%), 99% (n = 322) reported having seen a “wax pen or THC oil” based on a written list of product terms, whereas only 20% (n = 65) reported having seen “butane hash oil (BHO).” This suggests that asking about use of “butane hash oil” use may result in lower rates of cannabis concentrate use than asking about use of “wax pen/THC oil.” With regard to terms for marijuana flower, 29% of participants (n = 248) reported being unfamiliar with the term marijuana “buds or flowers.” Of participants who reported use of marijuana flower based on selecting pictures of the products they had used (38% of the sample, n = 329), only 86% (n = 282) reported having seen marijuana “buds or flowers” based on a written list of product terms. This suggests that asking about use of marijuana “buds or flowers” use could result in under-reporting due to lack of familiarity with that term. Finally, when asked to select pictures of the cannabis product(s) that participants thought constituted “marijuana,” participants most commonly selected pictures of marijuana flower (93%), followed by wax pen/THC oil (57%) and edibles (49%).
Young adults vary in their familiarity with cannabis product terms, and some may under-report cannabis use in surveys that rely on written cannabis product terms. Young adults also differ in terms of which cannabis products they think constitute “marijuana.” Although participants’ familiarity with specific cannabis product terms in this sample may not generalize to other populations, results highlight the need for standardized surveys of cannabis use that incorporate pictures of cannabis products to overcome issues related to variability in familiarity with cannabis product terms.