Cannabis in the media: Why it's time that we get it right

Published Dec 26, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / LittleBee80

Cannabis enthusiasts have had many moments in the media's spotlight while fighting for access, justice, and equality. However, until recently, it was still relatively taboo to include talk of the plant in big TV series or movies unless there was some sort of criminal element involved. It was illegal, so it made sense to portray most situations involving cannabis as dark and dangerous, but now that the world's stance on legalization is changing, so is the narrative we see placed before us on the big screen.

A road paved with good intentions

Most of the corniest, most stereotypical television series starring or focusing on cannabis started out with producers who had the best intentions. They wanted to make people laugh while helping them to feel more comfortable with talking about weed. At one point, the expense of reputation was worthwhile because it got essential conversations started.

We saw Cheech and Chong, the infamous duo, take on multiple adventures while getting stoned, hooking up with beautiful women, having hilarious interactions with law enforcement, and eating everything in sight. Still, the way they acted didn't set a good example of what cannabis could or would do. It was a highly sensationalized and, in most cases, entirely fabricated flick using logic that does not exist in this reality, and to most stoners today, that's offensive.

Still, we hold them up as examples of the perfect activists, which seems to have contributed to some of the incredible misinformation that we see so much of today.

The epidemic of misinformation

We live in a world where most people turn to social media and other online platforms for their information, but we also soak up a whole lot of what we know from some of the silliest television shows. Take, for example, the Simpsons, a series that many of us grew up with. Though we don't necessarily expect to take away any information of value when we tune in to animated series, there is no denying that the show has reflected some of the most significant societal shifts that have occurred.

In the beginning, you could watch Otto Man, Lisa and Bart's bus driver, get high just about anywhere, and as a result, he was always getting up to ridiculous antics that would put the children's lives in danger. He might have been randomly falling asleep on his route or crashing into various obstacles between dropping off students or doing something else just as dangerous right on school grounds. It wasn't a good look, but this narrative didn't stick as legalization became a more polarizing mainstream topic.

These days The Simpsons are switching things up, with Homer taking a test drive as a black-market dealer and Marge unknowingly signing up for a job at a modern cannabis dispensary. He didn't fare so well in his endeavours, but Marge took to her sweet new gig because she saw that it could help people, and in no time, we got to see Marge enjoying the benefits of weed herself, through both financial gains and stress relief.

It didn't take long for viewers to notice an abrupt switch in how The Simpson's writers chose to portray cannabis and its use, which is a widely praised move. Still, they undid several episode's worth of good in no time at all, with one single feature that aired at the end of November. In that episode, viewers saw a cab driver who whips out a bag of CBD gummies, only to take a handful and act stoned. The obvious problem with this is that CBD can't get you stoned, and therein lies the issue.

After opening up the hearts and minds of non-cannabis consumers everywhere, people were finally trusting the series to give them more refreshing doses of reality, but that just wasn't the case. CBD gummies can't get you high, but there is a pretty good chance that someone who watched that episode now believes that they do, which further burdens the lingering stereotype surrounding the non-psychoactive element.

Only a few views and shares later, and before you know it, numerous people are adversely impacted by this one terribly portrayed situation because it leads to the spread of misinformation, which is so incredibly hard to control and manage these days. That's how fast it happens and how much damage can come from one single awfully written animated episode, so if you try to imagine how much more we should expect from the numerous different media bases that are doing this, and it doesn't take long to see why we need to get a handle on this.

All at the expense of consumers and the industry

Misinformation hurts consumers, business owners and non-consumers alike, and this is serious. Cannabis isn't a joke to be made, and it's certainly not something that should be sensationalized any longer, as we know the hurt and disappointment that this can cause. For the cannabis industry to flourish, we need people and society to see each element for what it is because any mistrust will only hinder our progress in the future.

Witnessing the next evolution of stoner stereotypes

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