Being a part of our growing industry and dispelling cannabis stereotypes
Do you think the public stereotypes cannabis consumers?
Have you heard a lot of misinformation about people who consume cannabis?
How can YOU dispel the (often degrading) cannabis stereotype?
Today we, as a collective, compliant, inclusive industry, are changing the cannabis stigma.
People are coming out of the cannabis closet… welcome!
If you work in a dispensary, you’ve seen people of all ages (over 21 for Adult Use, of course), races, and backgrounds. YOU know different cannabinoids effect people differently. We strive to avoid the misinformation of one “strain” being a solution to a medical issue, as people have varying responses.
What can YOU do at your dispensary and in your community to change the stigma and promote the diverse population who enjoys using cannabis for wellness and health?
We love what our colleagues at Choice Organics, in Fort Collins, wrote in an Coloradoan article that calls on the industry to dispel the stereotypes.
Industry calls for return to cannabis to dispel stereotypes
As legal cannabis in all its incarnations gains greater and greater credibility in Colorado, many in the industry are fighting for a symbolic destigmatization of sorts. “We in the industry, we want to educate the public to refrain from the word marijuana. The roots are meant to divide. We’re going back to the scientific term, cannabis,” said Manny Garza of Fort Collins’ Choice Organics.
Garza is referring to a controversial early 20th century push to demonize the plant and criminalize it throughout the United States. Prior to the 1900s, cannabis — a genus of plant that includes both the tall hemp-producing varieties and the stalkier, budding marijuana types — caused little commotion. At the turn of the century, hemp was a popular industrial crop worldwide, and relatively few US residents had ever used marijuana. There were few regulations around the production or possession of the plant or its derivative products.
However, for the next several decades, a series of events promoting vested economic and social interests pushed out the scientific term “cannabis” as businessmen, lawmakers, and the media painted “marijuana” in a new, stigmatizing light.
Crafting a Stereotype: From Reefer Madness to the Lazy Stoner
Sociologists have called the rise of “Reefer Madness” one of the first carefully constructed ‘moral panics’ to spread across the United States. In the early 1900s, cannabis use was minimal and had not been associated with any significant health concerns or any kind of social uproar. Those who did partake found cannabis in tinctures and oils, and were able to smoke openly with little concern about government crackdowns.
Nonetheless, 1914 marked the beginning of localized prohibition. Like the temperance movement before it, early anti-marijuana legislation played on society’s existing racial and class-based struggles prejudices. The drug soon became publicly associated with populations believed to be immoral, including immigrants, ethnic minorities, criminals, and jazz musicians.
Today, many in the industry credit this early shift in thinking to William Randolph Hearst. “He saw hemp as an affront on his wealth, so he used the newspapers he published to run articles about a ‘new substance’ called marijuana,” said Garza. By using the Spanish term, Hearst directly linked cannabis to an already demonized population. In response, local legislators and law enforcement officers began pushing for stricter laws against the drug.
Still, by 1930, only 16 states had successfully banned cannabis possession or cultivation. It wasn’t until later that decade that Harry Anslinger, chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and long-time enforcer of alcohol prohibition, took the movement against hemp and marijuana federal. Enter “Reefer Madness.”
Throughout the mid-to-late 1930s, Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics provided data and anecdotes to the media intended to construct a frightening image of cannabis. From films to magazines and newspapers, the popular message at the time regarding marijuana was that using it would make you go crazy, have too much sex, and kill people.
The drug scare that resulted from these government-backed media campaigns led to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, the United States’ first federal anti-marijuana law.
“Anslinger was head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics when Prohibition failed. He needed something, so he created marijuana as a cultural divide between Americans and Mexican immigrants. Alcohol during Prohibition was for upper class elites. Marijuana was popular with others because they could afford it,” said Garza.
Thirty years later, the anti-cannabis message changed, though the intentions behind it did not. In the 1960s and 1970s, proponents of prohibition painted marijuana as dangerous in a different way. It was no longer a drug that would make users violent or promiscuous, but one that would make them lazy and shiftless. Labeled as the antithesis of an American society that valued hard work and economic productivity, cannabis once again came to represent cultural, social, and generational conflicts.
The Return to Cannabis & the Crushing of Stereotypes
As more states across the nation win the fight to legalize cannabis, activists can turn their attention to a broader objective: Moving beyond a divisive history and away from stereotypes. And part of that requires stepping away from a long-maligned term, marijuana. “In essence, in the US, the word marijuana didn’t exist. And today it’s used in law enforcement circles as this taboo word. I could see people thinking we’re just trying to be different, but it’s more than that. It goes back to the roots of the word, it goes back to the time before it was demonized,” Garza said.
But they won’t stop there. Moving forward, Garza and others in Colorado’s fledgling legal cannabis industry hold themselves up as breakers not just of the stigmatizing language but of the stereotypes themselves. This means advocating for cannabis’ medicinal roles as well as legitimizing its place as an alternative or complement to other adult-only substances by demonstrating responsible use.
“It’s all part of a grander scheme to treat cannabis just like alcohol. That’s the end state. That’s the goal. And in treating it like alcohol, we realize that adults can be responsible consumers,” Garza said.
Thank you to our friends and colleagues at Choice Organics for their great wisdom in sharing this article.
For more of their wisdom, check out their blog at: https://www.choiceorganicsinc.com/blog/