When the average person thinks about those who consume marijuana, they often conjure up images of stereotypical “stoners” in alternative clothing, scarfing through bags of chips. Though these stereotypes have been propagandized for years, they neither accurately reflect who uses marijuana nor who supports its legalization. Marijuana users and advocates for legalization pretty much range across every age, social, economic, racial, religious, political spectrum there is. And it is important that our country understands this.
For decades “reefer madness” worked very well at scaring people about both marijuana and those who consumed it–it is a natural human tendency to like our neighbors who we see to be like us and to share our values; it is easy to hate on the person who dresses differently from us and “puts lives at risk by smoking weed all day and neglecting their families.” Though most now laugh at both the movie and the concept, many of its precepts still live on, just more subtly.
Ridding our country of pot stereotypes, or at least reducing their impact, will go a long way towards aiding the drive to legalize.
The Drug Policy Alliance recently started an initiative to address the pot perception problem through the use of stock images. Under this initiative, the Alliance is dissementating brightly colored stock photographs featuring marijuana users of different ages and races, all using marijuana in their everyday lives. The men and women are shown on yoga mats, in the tub, or in brightly lit rooms. Sharda Sekaran, deputy manager of communications for the Alliance explained that they “wanted more accurate, more humanizing images of people using marijuana.” The hope is that media outlets will begin using realistic images for their articles on marijuana, not stereotypical ones.
A realistic portrayal by the media of those who consume is bound to bring about positive consequences. People viewing the stock images next to news articles are going to get a more accurate sense of how marijuana is actually used and who uses it. The images will help normalize marijuana and make it more familiar to those whose perception of marijuana users still fits the “stoner” stereotype. Not to criticize “stoners” who have and always will be an element of marijuana culture, but the world should be made aware that marijuana culture consists of more than just stoners.
Revamping stock images is just a small step towards changing society’s perceptions regarding marijuana. The big step would be for more of us who consume or who advocate for legalization to step out of the shadows and proudly announce that is the case. And marijuana businesses also realize the power of “re-branding” their image. For more on that, be sure to read Cannabis Branding: Because It Is Important.
What are your thoughts?