August 11, 2016 | by Staff
Oh the dreaded cannabis stigma! Prior to the early 1900s marijuana was not only legal in the United States of America, it was regularly prescribed by doctors to relieve a wide variety of medical conditions. People all over the nation had cannabis tinctures and medicines neatly tucked away in their medicine cabinets right alongside their eucalyptus oil, cotton balls and bandages. It wasn't until after the Mexican revolution when there was an influx of Mexicans into the United States that Americans began to attach a negative stigma to marijuana use.
Many Americans at the time believed the Mexicans to be very disruptive and because the newcomers favored the use of ‘marihuana’ as they called it, the plant quickly developed a negative reputation. To be sure the media had a significant role to play in the spreading of this false concept that ‘marihuana’ use can cause bad or disruptive behavior. Americans did not recognize that this ‘marihuana’ that they were labeling as the cause for unwanted behavior was the very same cannabis that they had been using as a medicinal cure for centuries.
The dislike that Americans had for the Mexicans fueled their dislike for marijuana and after a while they found ways to link the plant to a wide variety of bad behaviors, not the least of which was the claim that marijuana use cause men of color to solicit sex for white women! By 1937 marijuana was officially made illegal. The media continued, as still continues, to spread the propaganda that marijuana use is bad or cause bad behaviors. After almost a century of saturating the society with this misleading information, it is no wonder that the stigma associated with cannabis is so strong in our society today.
In the last decade we have seen a trend where more and more states in the US are legalizing marijuana for medical and / or recreational use. The plant has many advocates who continue to lobby for its legalization nationwide but even though several states have already legalized marijuana use, it still remains illegal at the federal level. The stigma that the public associates with cannabis is one of the biggest obstacles that advocates of its legalization face, even as more and more studies are being published which prove that the plant has numerous positive benefits.
As the cannabis stigma is such a huge issue, cannabis marketers are now faced with the problem of how to shift the public's view of the plant so that they see it in a much more positive light. This task should not be very difficult seeing that cannabis does, in fact have many benefits, but the strength of the stigma makes it far more challenging. People who have never actually used cannabis, and even many of those who do use it have the ‘lazy stoner’ stigma programmed into their minds by movies and other media. How can we shift the cannabis stigma so that the world can see the plant for what is really is?
Cannabis language entails all the terms that are used by society to refer to the plant in a direct or indirectly negative way. Words and terms like ‘stoner’ ‘pothead’ and ‘dope’ need to be eliminated from our vocabulary if we are to create a permanent shift in the cannabis stigma. These words may seem insignificant as they are casually used in everyday speech, but the underlying negative connotations that they express contribute significantly to the cannabis stigma.
The language used to describe or talk about cannabis is even more important when it comes to marketing medical marijuana. For obvious reasons it is not a good idea to use terms like ‘weed’ or ‘pot’ when you are marketing medical marijuana. Sticking to more appropriate terms like ‘cannabis’ and ‘marijuana’ presents the plant in a more professional light. This will be better received by the general public. Cannabis businesses that are focused on producing products for recreational purposes may be able to get away with using terms like ‘weed’ and ‘pot’, but generally speaking, it will go a long way to diminishing the stigma of cannabis in the society if these terms were no longer used to refer to the plant.
As a cannabis marketer, it is in your business’ best interest to let your target market know about cannabis users who are excelling in one area or another. Highlighting the activities or accomplishments of such individuals will have the effect of countering the social stigma attached to the plant. Initiatives like the #OnCannabis Campaign where people who use cannabis to help them workout and do other challenging physical activities, clearly demonstrates that cannabis users are not all the stereotypical surfer dude in a tie dye t-shirt.
Seeing that real live, everyday people who use cannabis can actually lead active, healthy lives can be quite an eye opening experience for many who exist under the veil of the cannabis stigma. They are forced to question their preconceived ideas of how a person that uses cannabis should behave when faced with the reality that successful people like Steve Jobs, Hugh Hefner and Richard Branson have enjoyed the plant at one time or another.
More light needs to be shone on the well-known personalities as well as everyday people who use marijuana, lead successful lives and do not live on their parent's couch. A plethora of examples can be found if only we look for them. The stigma is fake and we just need to show the public the truth.
A shift in the way that the general society perceives cannabis is not likely to happen overnight. It will take a concerted effort on the part of all cannabis advocates to make the change a reality, but it is entirely possible. We can showcase, celebrate, talk about cannabis users who are excelling in their fields, and we can also be more conscious of the words that we use to describe cannabis to do our part in shifting the stigma.
The media maybe be responsible for creating the stigma in the first place but marketing has the power to shift it so that cannabis is viewed in a more positive light.
Categories: Cannabis Marketing
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