The Marijuana Stigma

Oct 16, 2019

If we look closely, we can deduce that laws are generally strong driving forces, particularly in creating an image of what kind of behaviors are acceptable in society. As laws barring marijuana use continue to strengthen, the construction of the marijuana stigma also garnered support – and this stigma remains difficult to tear down. The Control Substance Act, a law currently in existence, was made to outlaw the sale, production, and use of marijuana. Here, marijuana was also classified as a Schedule I narcotic drug, alongside highly potent narcotics like LSD, cocaine, and heroin. As a result of its criminalization, the negative stigma surrounding the use of marijuana is even furthered. Furthermore, this has enabled society to classify users as “stoners”, one that reeks of further stigma.

The marijuana stigma is also continuously taken advantage of, as can be seen in the political landscape - criticizing the drug often resulted into stronger positions in political campaigns. The watchdog of society, the media, has also played a part in enabling and reinforcing the stigma. Considering the state of the world, which is mostly technologically driven now, it should come as to no surprise that the information we are exposed to and consume come from the many platforms of the media. For instance, television programs often portray marijuana viewers negatively, often seen as emotionless, lazy, and overall deviant members of society. Hollywood also has its fair share of the stigma fortification, and considering the extent of its influence, such ideas are accepted by societies across the world. As an aftermath of the marijuana stigma, society has turned to exaggerate the effects of marijuana on its users. Often times, albeit the emergence of scientific evidence, medical marijuana users are perceived as no different from those who have developed actual addiction for the drug. A recent study has reported that users of medical marijuana experienced the extent of the stigma due to the negative perception trailing marijuana, along with its contemporary use as a recreational drug. Despite exhausting efforts, these less than ideal perceptions have been difficult to avoid. In fact, one of the leading questions that continue to be a conundrum in society is this: does this marijuana stigma promote or reduce drug use?

Following the advancement of human knowledge and scientific research, the benefits of marijuana has become evident. As a strong argument, those in favor of marijuana argue that alcohol has far more adverse effects in health, so why is it far less stigmatized? Perhaps the pages of history have answers; if we look back two decades ago, the suppliers and users of marijuana were seen in society as dangerous, often demonized by mass media. On the other end, alcohol is repeatedly shown as a drug that enhances social interaction. To add insult to injury, despite the growing knowledge on marijuana, people tend to focus more on outdated scientific research and antagonistic health effects of marijuana, and this act alone sustains the marijuana stigma. 

Of course, the presence of the harmful effects of marijuana is something that cannot be denied. Upon inspection, tobacco and alcohol (both of which are legal substances) actually have greater negative impacts – kidney failure and lung cancer, for instance, is a rapidly increasing crisis. Truth be told, society holds the tendency to selectively ignore the scientifically-proven benefits of marijuana, and this reason alone explains why tearing the marijuana stigma down proves to be a challenge. 

Despite the strong foundation of the marijuana stigma, the use of the plant continues to prevail. That said, the people vouching for its benefits believe it’s only a matter of time before the stigma is eradicated. The Unites States of America, in particular, has shown an increase in marijuana usage in the last decade – this statistic is apparent among millennials and younger. This culture is mostly seen in the average American college campus, where fun and recreation is accompanied by exposure to marijuana. Apart from this renewed popularity, the media portrayal of marijuana has also drastically changed – now, the drug is often celebrated. The once negative stigma in movies has become nonexistent; approximately twenty years ago, this drug was associated by barbaric dealers and users, now the messages and concepts mirror the contemporary culture of young adults embracing it. Considering the fact that media indeed plays a vital role in information propagation, it is possible that the marijuana stigma can be eradicated once and for all.

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