Citation: Ng, J.Y., Tahir, U. & Lum, N. The quality of health information provided on web sites selling cannabis to consumers in Canada is poor. Harm Reduct J 19, 138 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-022-00691-9
Cannabis is used by millions of people for both medical and recreational purposes, and this use is even greater in jurisdictions where it is legalized, such as Canada. Online cannabis vendors have gained popularity for purchasing cannabis due to easy access and convenience to consumers. The objective of this study was to evaluate the quality of health information provided by web sites of cannabis vendors selling products to Canadian consumers and to further identify trends in the information provided.
Six different searches were conducted on Google.ca, and the first 40 webpages of each search were screened for eligibility. A total of 33 unique web sites of cannabis vendors selling products to Canadian consumers were identified and included. The DISCERN instrument, which consists of 16 questions divided into three sections, was used to evaluate the quality of cannabis-related health information on these web sites.
Across the 33 web sites, the average of the summed DISCERN scores was 36.83 (SD = 9.73) out of 75, and the mean score for the overall quality of the publication (DISCERN question 16) was 2.41 (SD = 0.71) out of 5. Many of these web sites failed to discuss uncertainties in research evidence on cannabis, the impact of cannabis use on quality of life, alternatives to cannabis use, risks associated with cannabis use, and lacked references to support claims on effects and benefits of use.
Our findings indicate that the quality of cannabis-related health information provided by online vendors is poor. Healthcare providers should be aware that patients may use these web sites as primary sources of information and appropriately caution patients while directing them to high-quality sources. Future research should serve to replicate this study in other jurisdictions and assess the accuracy of information provided by online cannabis vendors, as this was outside the scope of the DISCERN instrument.