Cannabis is taking the world by storm at the moment. It has become so common that it’s now almost the norm to see weed stories showing up on some of the most conservative of news sites. Even though world views are changing slowly, many media outlets still show cannabis in a negative light. This further perpetuates the stigmas that cannabis consumers are actively trying to avoid, challenge and breakdown.
It has been observed that when cannabis makes it into these more mainstream media outlets, negative images usually accompany the stories. Images of lazy stoners or criminals associated with marijuana. Racial, criminal and cultural stereotypes still linger like a bad smell.
The Evidence is There
A study in America reports that 21% of all photos, taken from 10 news sites, featured stoner cliches. These include kids passing around a joint, friends ripping bongs and so on. Very rarely do they picture your ‘normal, everyday person’ with their families. A further 15% of these images featured cannabis in relation to criminal activity. Another common feature of this was the clear racist imagery.
Minorities are clearly depicted as criminals more than their non-racial minority counterparts.
The study dove in deeper and looked at the prevalence of neutral images of cannabis. The search was for stock photos of plants, cannabis being examined in a lab by researchers, and pictures of cannabis in traditional families and relationships.
Neutral news sites were seen to depict normification in images more frequently than liberal news sites. Conservative sites were much less likely to normalise marijuana than either liberals or neutrals.
In The End
These results are not localised to America specifically. This are seen in the South African context as well. The only time you find marijuana in the news is when there has been a drug bust or news about drugs ravaging a town near you. You’ll also find that images largely depict cannabis use by minority groups, rather than your suburban housewives.
The media will continue to sit in the driver’s seat when it comes to reinforcing or breaking down the stigmas and stereotypes. Their representations of cannabis consumers are what the world see and believe. Media representations are what the masses will perceive cannabis use as, how they will judge the plants users and either continue the stereotypes or open their arms to this plant.