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Content Analysis of the Corporate Social Responsibility Practices of 9 Major Cannabis Companies in Canada and the US.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.28088
ImportanceThe cannabis industry has sought to normalize itself and expand its markets in the 21st century. One strategy used by companies to generate positive public relations is corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is critical to understand these efforts to influence the public and politicians given the risks of increased cannabis use.
ObjectivesTo analyze cannabis industry CSR behaviors, determine their characteristics, and compare their practices with those of the tobacco industry.
Design, setting, and participantsThis qualitative study of CSR activities conducted between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2021, evaluated 9 of the 10 largest publicly traded cannabis companies in the US and Canada. Data were collected from August 1 to December 31, 2021. The 10th company was excluded because it engaged in cannabis-based pharmaceutical sales but not CSR. A systematic review of corporate websites and Nexis Uni was performed, resulting in collection of 153 news articles, press releases, and Web pages. Charitable and philanthropic actions were included. Themes were identified and interpreted using modified grounded theory.
Main outcomes and measuresCSR activities and spending.
ResultsNine major cannabis companies in the US and Canada engaged in CSR activities that encouraged increased consumption and targeted marginalized communities. Companies claimed these activities would mitigate the harms of cannabis prohibition, promote diversity, expand access to medical cannabis, and support charitable causes. They developed educational programs, sustainability initiatives, and voluntary marketing codes and used strategies similar to those used by tobacco companies to recruit public interest organizations as allies.
Conclusions and relevanceThese findings suggest that cannabis companies developed CSR strategies comparable to those used by the tobacco industry to influence regulation, suggesting that cannabis companies should be included when addressing commercial determinants of health.
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