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Marijuana Listening Sessions Script

Facilitator Notes


As a Facilitator, your job is to:

1) Elicit opinion and not judge it. 

2) Proceed through the questions with a neutral tone without giving answers or correcting people’s responses.  Just listen! 

3) You may ask the follow up questions:

“Tell me more about ___________?”,

“Can you give me an example?”, or

“Does anyone else have anything to say about that”


4) You can phrase the same question in a different way.

5) You also can summarize what you hear from the group and ask if they agree.

6) You can look around the room and make brief eye contact, especially with those who have not yet spoken to encourage participation by all.  You can say, “Can we hear from you?” to a quiet participant.

7) Do not educate people even if they ask (i.e. if someone asks you “Don’t studies show...”)

8) Do NOT express your own opinions about a topic




Introduction and purpose


“Hello and welcome to this group listening session.  My name is [insert name of moderator] and this is my assistant, [insert name of assistant].  We are working on behalf of researchers in the field of substance abuse prevention. My role is to help get a conversation going about your attitudes and beliefs about Marijuana.  Both my assistant and I will be taking notes on your comments so that we don’t miss anything.  Thank you all for taking time out of your day to come here and discuss your ideas.


“We are here to learn about your views.  As we go through the questions, know there aren’t any right or wrong answers.  We just want to hear your honest point of view, even if it is different from what everyone else is saying.   It is important that everyone take part in the discussion and that we each respect each other’s opinions.  Don’t feel like you have to respond to each question, however, if you aren’t saying much, I might call on you to ask you what you think.


“At this time, I’d like everyone to turn your cell phones off and put them away.  Please do not check or answer any texts or emails during this time as it may be a distraction to both you and others.




  • “The total length of time of the focus group meeting is expected to be about [insert expected duration].

  • “Your participation is strictly voluntary.

    • “My assistant and I will be taking some notes so that we can be sure we don’t miss anything important and so that we can go back and revisit the information if we need to.

    • (Insert the following and delete the preceding bullet point if we decide to record): “We are going to record the discussion today because it is impossible to listen to you and take notes and we want to make sure that we don’t miss anything that someone says.  This discussion will be confidential and no names will be used in our report.)


  • “Since we have limited time, I might move you along in conversation and ask that questions or comments off the topic be answered and placed in a “parking lot” and/or addressed after the listening session.

  • “Please respect each other’s opinions.  There are no right or wrong answers to the questions I will ask.  We want to hear what each of you think and it’s okay to have different opinions.

  • “We’d like to stress that we want to keep the sessions confidential so we ask that you not use names or anything directly identifying when you talk about your personal experiences.  We also ask that you not discuss other participants’ responses outside of the discussion.  However, because this is in a group setting, the other individuals participating will know your responses to the questions and we cannot guarantee that they will not discuss your responses outside of the focus group.”




“Again, your participation here today is totally voluntary. So, if you are okay with moving forward, we would like to begin with short introductions.  Please state your first name, where you are from, and an alternate name for marijuana. (e.g. pot, weed, cannabis, etc.)”  


Questions For Marijuana Listening Sessions

 (do not read topic names… just questions)


Topic 1:  Where they get information


“Tell me about who you hear talking about marijuana. What are they saying?


“Tell me about sources you would trust to get information about marijuana”


“Tell me about who you hear talking about marijuana as medicine. What people are saying?”



“Tell me what sources you would trust to get information about marijuana as medicine?”


“Tell me about any ads that you have seen for marijuana-related products on-line, in stores, or on social media? 

            Probe: “Where did you see them?”


Topic 2: Perception of Harm Questions


Deck of Cards Exercise:

“For this next section, I am going to break you up into 2 groups and give you a deck of cards.  As a group, I want to take a few minutes to sort the cards as a group into three piles.  One of piles will be of words/phrases you associate with marijuana one pile should be of words/phrases you don’t associate with it and the last pile is not sure.  Feel free to talk through your placement of the card as your group decides and agrees on its placement” 


(Words in the deck:  Natural, Impairs judgement/memory, Accessible, Expensive, Addictive, Impairs driving, Safe, Penalties, Health consequences, Helps disorders, Motivation/Productivity, Medicine, Harmful, Tolerance, Withdrawal, Party, Chill/relax, Social)


Listen carefully as each group is talking through their placement. Continue to take notes on their commentary. Make notes of anything you want to follow up on.


*Take a photo of the piles laid out so you can see which cards are in which pile for future reference. Keep the photos so you can have it for reference for the final report.


Have a representative from each group describe why their group placed the cards where they did.  Follow up with any probing questions at this point.


Additional Follow up questions:

“Tell me about what you think are the pros of using marijuana?”


“Tell me about what you think the cons of using marijuana?”

            Probe: legal, occupational, mental/physical health?”


“If someone you knew was using marijuana, what sorts of things would you tell them NOT to do because there could be harm or consequences?”


“What are the penalties in Ohio now if you get caught with marijuana?”


Topic 3: Community norms and local conditions


 “What would your friends, co-workers, family members think if YOU used marijuana recreationally?”


“What would you think of a friend, co-worker, family member if THEY used marijuana recreationally?”


“What would your friends, co-workers, family members think if YOU used marijuana for a medical reason?”


“What would you think of a friend, co-worker, family member if THEY used marijuana for a medical reason?”


“Tell me about how easy you think it is that if someone in your community wanted to get marijuana, they could get it?”

PROBE:  “What specific steps would they need to take to get it?”


“When do people use marijuana in (Fill in the name of the town you are focusing on)?”


“Where do people get and or use marijuana in (Fill in the name of the town you are focusing on)?”


“Why do you think marijuana use happens in (Fill in the name of the town you are focusing on)?”




Topic 4:  Knowledge of forms of marijuana


“Tell me about the forms of marijuana have you heard about? 

Follow up If they did not mention on ask:  

“What have you heard about edibles?”

“What have you heard about smokable marijuana?”

“Have you ever heard of marijuana extracts like oil, wax, budder, crumble and shatter?  If so, what do you know about them?”


Topic 5:  Knowledge of marijuana as medicine, policy and enforcement


“What have you heard about the changes to marijuana law in Ohio over the past year or so? 

PROBE:  What will be allowed?  Not allowed?”


“For what medical conditions have you heard marijuana can be useful?”


“Tell me about any kind of evidence you’ve heard of that supports marijuana as medicine.”

Follow up:  “Where have you heard about this research?”


“Tell me your thoughts about whether there should be an age restriction or not  on using marijuana as medicine?”


“What do you think the consequences of medicalization of marijuana will be for adults?

PROBE:  Young people, and children?”


Wrap up: 


“Are there any other thoughts you would like to share with me today on Marijuana?”


“Are there any other questions I should ask young people or adults about marijuana?”


“We’ve come to the end of our questions. Thank you for your honest opinions – you were tremendously helpful at this very early, but very important stage.”


“The information we have gathered today will be used to shape community and county education, policies, and practices regarding marijuana prevention.  As a reminder, we will not attach any identifying information to your responses.  If you are interested in helping with substance abuse education in your community, please leave your name and email address as you leave.  Again, thank you very much for your participation today. We really appreciate your help.”


Facilitator notes:

As a facilitator, have information about ways to get involved in coalition work ready.


Note taker and facilitator should set aside time immediately following the session to discuss and correct their notes so that a cohesive message is formed.

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