Rural Young Adults' Perceptions of Cannabis: A Survey Study




Chen, Li
Xie, Ming

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This project examines rural young adults' perceptions of cannabis (marijuana). The results of a paper-and-pencil and an online survey yielded four major findings. The research findings show the associations between exposure to social media messages about cannabis, moral foundations, perceived risks of cannabis, attitudes toward cannabis legalization, and word of mouth intentions to talk about cannabis in person and online. Data analysis suggests that young adults' attitudes toward recreational cannabis and cannabis legalization are not predicted by time spent on social media, but are associated with specific moral foundations. The research findings show that health educators may consider embedding latent moral values in their drug-prevention campaigns that target rural young adults.


Project overview Cannabis is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021), and public opinion on it has been rapidly evolving in recent years (Carliner et al., 2017). While existing health communication research has generated novel insights into cannabis-related attitudes, norms, and behaviors of various demographic segments, including adolescents (Thrash & Warner, 2019), high school students (Palamar, 2014), college students (Earle et al., 2020), and older adults (Arora et al., 2020), little is known about rural young adults' perceptions of cannabis, even though they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors (Gupta & Petti, 2022; Lambert et al., 2008). This study aimed to reveal rural young adults' attitudes toward regarding cannabis. Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) Built upon virtual theories and cultural psychology (Haidt & Joseph, 2004), the MFT is consisted of five universal foundations to explain the moral intuitions that shape individuals' reactions to ethical dilemmas (Haidt & Joseph, 2004), attitudes toward social issues (Haidt & Graham, 2007), and behaviors (Hopp et al., 2021). The five foundations are Care/Harm, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. Moral foundations shape one's "fast, automatic gut-reactions of like and dislike when certain patterns are perceived in the social world, which in turn guide judgements of right and wrong" (Koleva et al., 2012, p.185). This study applies the MFT theory to a controversial health communication topic, young adults' perceptions of cannabis. The data collection methodology was a survey.


2024 Faculty and Student Research Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, College of Fine Arts and Humanities, Poster, Cannabis, Rural, Young adults


Permalink for this item. Use this when sharing or citing this source.