Is cannabis an illicit drug or a medicine? A quantitative framing analysis of Israeli newspaper coverage

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Background: Various countries and states, including Israel, have recently legalized cannabis for therapeutic purposes (CTP). These changes have received mass media coverage and prompted national and international dialogue about the status of cannabis and whether or not it can be defined as a (legitimate) medicine, illicit and harmful drug, or both. News media framing may influence, and be influenced by, public opinion regarding CTP and support for CTP license provisions for patients. This study examines the framing of CTP in Israeli media coverage and the association between media coverage and trends in the provision of CTP licenses in Israel over time. Methods: All published news articles relevant to CTP and the framing of cannabis (N= 214) from the three highest circulation newspapers in Israel were content analyzed. Articles were published between January 2007 and June 2013, a period in which CTP licenses granted by the Ministry of Health increased substantially. Results: In the majority of CTP news articles (69%), cannabis was framed as a medicine, although in almost one third of articles (31%) cannabis was framed as an illicit drug. The relative proportion of news items in which cannabis was framed as an illicit drug fluctuated during the study period, but was unrelated to linear or curvilinear trends in CTP licensing. Conclusion: The relatively large proportion of news items framing cannabis as a medicine is consistent with growing support for the expansion of the Israel's CTP program.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-452
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was partly supported by an Israeli Pfizer Health Policy grant. The funding source had no involvement in the collection, analysis or interpretation of data, in the writing of the article or in the decision to submit it for publication. Conflict of interest statement

Funding Information:
In addition, the rapid increase in CTP licenses may be partly driven by changes in attitudes toward CTP among medical practitioners. As research on CTP developed during the study period, an increasing number of Israeli doctors could have encountered research suggesting benefits of CTP for specific conditions. For example, there was a major international scientific conference entitled “Cannabinoids in Biology and Medicine” honoring the ‘father of cannabis research’ in Israel – Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on November 1, 2010. This conference was supported by Israel's Science Foundation and attracted leading researchers and physicians from the U.S. and Europe who presented research on CTP ( Department of Media Relations, 2010 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Cannabis
  • Cannabis for therapeutic purposes
  • Media framing
  • Medical cannabis
  • Medical cannabis policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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