The effects of stereotypes and propaganda on the Canadian cannabis industry

Published May 9, 2019 11:19 a.m. ET
Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz

Now that Canada and many other influential countries have legalized marijuana there has been an influx of brand-new cannabis research taking place. This is great news for the average consumer and goes a long way towards helping to change the opinions of so many who are still entirely against its use. Though there are still many barriers being faced by those who seek safe access to cannabis products in this country. The benefits of CBD oil and THC oil have been proven, and yet there is still no legal supplier of either of these products outside of government regulated marijuana dispensaries, who won’t permit the sale of concentrates until this coming October. Even once they do allow edibles, concentrates, and other cannabis products, there is a stringent limit that’s been suggested which does not suit the needs of the average consumer. Despite gradual growing support for its legal status, the overall acceptance rate of marijuana in Canada is only hovering just above 50%.

Why are so many people still against the cannabis industry?

The reasons for this are well documented, historically there has been a lot of sabotage directed at the cannabis industry. Though the benefits of CBD oil have long been known and are even patented in the form of medication in both the United States and Canada. The demonization of the marijuana plant and stereotypes spread about pot users themselves have seriously the credibility of marijuana dispensary owners, licensed producers, and other distributors to set up shop and function without interruption from the surrounding community.

We are used to dealing with typical smells in both the city and the country from manure fertilizers to stinky produce, meat packing plants, and recycling facilities. Almost every city or town has one, and people get by fine. They are in fact, considered necessary for the citizens within the area. So why don’t all people see weed as a medicine that should be accessed equally by the people? Why is it being compared to alcohol when one is inherently toxic, and the other is not?  Especially when we already know through years of cannabis research that it’s incredibly effective at treating illness. The reasons for this are many, but here we will touch on a few of the most influential movements that have driven the negative stereotypes and attitudes about stoners for years.

1. Lies

One of the first things that people need to consider before putting something into their lungs or body is its potential adverse health effects. Though there is no denying that marijuana smoke can slightly agitate a user’s lungs, there have been some misleading claims by world renowned organizations that outright lied to the public. The most noted was released by the American Lung Association, who claimed that smoking one joint of cannabis was just as harmful to your health as smoking a full pack of cigarettes a day.

The second most famous exposed lie was from the Attorney General who has adamantly defended their public statement claiming that violence and crime increased in states that legalized cannabis products for recreational use. The truth is that there has been no substantiated difference between the violence or crime rates in areas like Oregon, Washington, or Colorado since legalization. These are just two prime examples of highly respected individuals shifting the public's opinions based on outright lies. There have been so many to date that they would be impossible to list, but this factor plays an important part in the cannabis industry being so restricted today.

2. Fake news

We all have our favorite news stations and sources. The ones who we trust to give it to us straight and inform the public as they were meant to. The problem is that much of the news is putting a sensationalized spin on stories, that doesn’t fully explain the context of the situations faced. They are also using words like an overdose, which is so often associated with narcotics and carries a judgement that should never be associated with cannabis products. Below are just two examples of national news stories that were taken way out of context, and entirely vague to remain factual while leaving out important facts for curious readers.

- Titled “Elderly man’s heart attack is another warning about grey market cannabis” and released by none other than Global News on February 15 of 2019. The writer starts with an introduction that speaks of hallucinations leading up to a heart attack shortly after consuming most of a marijuana infused lollipop. Only after this intentionally shocking headline does it mention that the man was 90 years old and had a history of prior heart health issues. There is no mention of his illnesses part in the nearly catastrophic events of that day. They also leave out any relevant information for interested or current cannabis product consumers, by refusing to highlight the fact that this incident is the result of an uneducated person who was self-medicating with a high dose of medication that was unsafe given his condition. For a regular weed smoker that enjoys the occasional edible, 90mg is not unsafe, and for some even insufficient to meet their needs.

- Titled “Spike in cannabis poisoning in kids a concern for doctors: It’s a candy, and it tastes great” and released again by Global News which is a worldwide news source for people all around the world. As you can imagine from the title, the journalist references a total of two children who were rushed to the hospital after consuming marijuana edibles. Dr. Michael Szabo provides statements that include the word overdose and poisoning, implying a life-threatening situation that was narrowly avoided. This puts viewers in a position where many panics, especially if they were already anti-pot, to begin with. The truth is that it is nearly impossible to consume enough cannabis products to truly overdose, and when you see that word the headlines, most time it means that someone over consumed and panicked or unsafely experimented due to a lack of knowledge.

3. Stereotypes

Many of the oldest stereotypes surrounding marijuana use are based on racism, classism, and other societal issues of that time. Nowadays, even the glorified and viewed as positive associations with stoners in the media, is incredibly stereotypically driven an implies that stoners are lazy, unmotivated, probably live at home with mom and dad, jobless, clueless, and dim witted. Most of the characters from world famous movies that many of us enjoyed, assaulted their cause by driving the idea that anyone who chose to smoke weed was probably broke, hilarious to be around, and not good for much else. According to the latest cannabis research, this stigma couldn’t be further than the truth. One study found that marijuana consumers make an average of $2000 more per year than their counterparts. Though smoking weed might not be a great idea when you have numbers to crunch or other responsibilities, for many its effect provides necessary relief from their day to day stresses, and for others, it’s the inspiration that drives their craft. All aspects of marijuana use that are rarely touched on these days.

4. Propaganda

The western world's most famous and influential cannabis propaganda came in the form of the media and funded by the government which was firmly against its use.

Reefer Madness

In the 1930s Reefer Madness hit the big screens and spread like wildfire as fact through most of the listening population. The film is believed to be the most seen anti-cannabis piece in the world and was even implemented throughout the school systems in the 1960s when the children who had grown up in the Reefer Madness era had kids of their own that they wanted to be exposed the same way they were. As most of them grew up believing that the film and literature had some sort of merit.

The Marijuana Tax Act from 1937

The Act banned cannabis product sales and use after marijuana use by minorities like Mexicans and Jamaicans was deemed to cause angry outbursts and violence. Though the Act was overturned in 1970 with the Controlled Substances Act, this shift in societal views was politically and racially motivated, and lead to a decline in the overall opinions of cannabis.

5. Criminal association

The not long past criminal element is a major driver in the aversion to legal cannabis products that are available today. Though many have rejoiced in the ability to consume pot in public spaces and their homes without fear of repercussions since legalization, many have lived their entire lives with this secret, and it’s challenging to publicly display a habit that is still so negatively viewed by much of society. This element has affected the appeal to new potential customers, the comfort of experienced consumers, and the environment of dispensaries which many people find intrusive and fear are a potential spot for exposure of their secret.

Despite marijuana products now entirely legal, all businesses who enter this market are immediately drenched in a stigma that is difficult to handle from the surrounding communities. Many landlords, business owners, and other essential people in our lives still believe in the criminal element of marijuana that implies other illegal activities. All of this is thanks to the governments who have jailed thousands of innocent people for years, over a plant. Citizens are offended by the smell, the presence, and the idea of the culture which is problematic and a massive barrier for new cannabis industry leaders who are looking to expand. Though times are most certainly changing, and general societal views surrounding marijuana use are shifting, we still have a long way to go before the marijuana market will get the chance to truly flourish.

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