Using online crowdsourced data to measure the availability of cannabis home delivery: A pilot study


Objective:

Growing availability of cannabis products through home delivery services may affect cannabis-related health outcomes. However, research is impeded by a lack of data measuring its scale. Prior research demonstrated that crowdsourced websites can be used to validly enumerate brick-and-mortar cannabis outlets. We piloted an extension of this method to explore the feasibility of measuring availability of cannabis home delivery.


Method:

We tested implementation of an automated algorithm designed to webscrape data from Weedmaps, the largest crowdsourced website for cannabis retail, to count the number of legal cannabis retailers offering home delivery to the geographic centroid of each Census block group in California. We compared these estimates to the number of brick-and-mortar outlets within each block group. To assess data quality, we conducted follow-up telephone interviews with a subsample of cannabis delivery retailers.


Results:

We successfully implemented the webscraping. Of the 23,212 block groups assessed, 22,542 (97%) were served by at least one cannabis delivery business. Only 461 block groups (2%) contained one or more brick-and-mortar outlets. In interviews, availability varied dynamically as a function of staffing levels, order sizes, time of day, competition, and demand.


Conclusions:

Webscraping crowdsourced websites could be a viable method for quantifying rapidly evolving availability of cannabis home delivery. However, key practical and conceptual challenges must be overcome to conduct a full-scale validation and develop methodological standards. Acknowledging data limitations, cannabis home delivery appears to be nearly universal in California, whereas availability of brick-and-mortar outlets is limited, underscoring the need for research on home delivery.

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