Outdoor Medical Cannabis Advertising in Oklahoma: Examining Regulatory Compliance and Social Meanings in Billboard Content


Health Promotion and Physical Education

Document Type


Publication Date



Background: Medical cannabis currently dominates the U.S. cannabis advertising landscape. The public is increasingly exposed to outdoor cannabis advertising, which increases positive attitudes about and intentions to use cannabis. Research is lacking regarding outdoor cannabis advertising content. This article characterizes the content of outdoor cannabis advertising in Oklahoma, one of the fastest growing U.S. medical cannabis markets. Methods: We conducted a content analysis of cannabis advertising billboard images (n = 73) from Oklahoma City and Tulsa, photographed May 2019–November 2020. We followed a primarily inductive, iterative team approach to thematically analyze billboard content in NVIVO. We reviewed all images, identified a broad coding taxonomy, and then incorporated emergent codes and those related to advertising regulation (e.g. youth/children). We totaled frequencies of code application across billboards and reexamined billboards for final themes. Results: Major themes were social meanings related to cannabis subculture, formal medical systems, and nature, and the presence of company contact information. Minor themes related to convenience, price promotions, store proximity, U.S. affiliation, product quality, and spirituality. State advertising regulation violations were rare, with the exception of content that may promote curative or therapeutic effects (4%) and misrepresentation of product state of origin (1.4%). Conclusion: Outdoor medical cannabis advertising in Oklahoma blurs boundaries between formal medical discourses and cannabis subculture that is suspicious of messaging from authorities and regards cannabis as harmless and natural. Increased monitoring of advertising regulation compliance and greater understanding of social discourses within emerging markets is needed to promote public health within the context of cannabis advertising.

Journal Title

Substance Use and Misuse

Journal ISSN






First Page


Last Page


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)