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For those who were opposed to cannabis legalization, we have some bad news for you: the sky did not fall when Canada became the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis in 2018. Fast forward to October 17th, 2020, we can honestly say that everything has been pretty much ‘business as usual’, aside from the highly unusual nature of 2020 itself. Legalizing “weed” was the first step to breaking down the stigma – but there is still more work to do. In this article, we look back to see how cannabis stigma has been broken down over the years, and what actions still need to be taken.
Stigma & Cannabis
2 years ago, Canada made history by becoming the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis for adult-use. Throughout the last few years, cannabis has moved closer and closer to the mainstream of North American culture, becoming widely accepted as a plant that has both medicinal and recreational benefits.
October 17th, 2020, is a special date for 7ACRES and for the entire cannabis industry as a whole, as it marks the beginning of the third year that cannabis has been legalized in Canada. We always use October 17th as a date to commemorate being #ProudToBeAllowed, not only as a date to celebrate the successes and triumphs of being a part of the legal cannabis industry but also as a day to reflect on what we can do better to help progress the industry forward.
We are actively writing history while working in the legal cannabis industry. As we watch this industry take shape and form, through the launch of new product formulations, competitive pricing, and increased accessibility as the number of retail stores grows rapidly, it is important to take a pause in such a fast moving industry. Thinking critically about what we can do to make the industry a better, more welcoming place – not just those who work in it, but all those who help support it as well.
For over 100 years there has been a stigma surrounding the cannabis plant and those who choose to consume it. Legalizing cannabis and creating regulation and reform was the first step to breaking down the stigma of cannabis, by normalizing the culture, creating a legal industry and bringing together an inclusive community. Since legalization, we have been doing our part by continuing the conversation around the social stigma of cannabis and educating the masses on this beautiful plant.
The stigma surrounding the cannabis plant and its usage has been around for decades in North American society, stemming back well before the 1930s. This stigma is not rooted in fact-based proclamations, however, these stereotypes have continued to survive, and the over exaggeration of drugs and users as dangerous people unable to show self-restraint ultimately leads to further stigma. These types of false proclamations have impacted many people and in many cases caused irreparable damage to people’s careers, reputations and lives.
A prime example is Reefer Madness – a widely popularized film from the 1930s. The film’s plot follows two teenagers facing melodramatic events that occur after consuming cannabis. Reefer Madness was one of the many propaganda pieces that created the stigma surrounding the cannabis plant and negatively affected consumers.
The film painted a vivid picture that people who consume cannabis are either stoners, careless, or even murderers and criminals, partaking in deviant behaviour because of their cannabis usage. This depiction created by Hollywood built up steam and became the poster child for anti-cannabis propaganda in the ’60s and ’70s in the US.
Cannabis Stigma vs. Alcohol
Even though it’s widely available and socially acceptable to drink, alcohol is still responsible for thousands of deaths and countless injuries every year. Moreover, despite the fact that it’s addictive and dangerous, people continue to normalize alcohol consumption in a way that has never been tolerated with other drugs such as cannabis.
Alcohol is everywhere, it is advertised on all major media outlets and for sale anywhere people congregate, from the supermarket to restaurants to the arenas you watch your favorite sports team in.
Because of how ubiquitous alcohol is, how acceptable it is, and how much pressure there is to drink it, it is normal to post about it on our social media pages, joke around about how it helps us ‘get through our long days’ and how we can’t wait for happy hour with friends. But, with cannabis, a plant that has never been linked to a single death, this has been taboo for as long as most can remember.
This is where the stigma has existed and still does to a certain degree. Cannabis consumers have faced negative backlash for talking about cannabis, consuming cannabis, and posting about cannabis since legalization. Yet the post with an evening glass of wine garners positive reception. With legalization now two years in, we can rejoice that we are at the dawn of a new era where you look left and right and you see cannabis retail stores, swag from companies being worn by the general public, and people consuming and enjoying the plant.
The Liberated Cannabis Consumer
The good news is, as we learn more about cannabis, its reputation improves amongst society. Changes in the perception of cannabis are happening, not just because of the fact that it is relatively safe – especially when compared with other socially used substances – but because we are building an industry and a community around the plant.
At 7ACRES, we launched our #ProudToBeAllowed campaign on the first anniversary of legalization because we truly are proud to be allowed to legally produce high end cannabis and consume it without fear of persecution. This date dawned a new era of cannabis consumer – for those who were either not comfortable going to the informal market or those who were finally comfortable sharing and talking about their usage with friends, family, and co-workers now that it had become legalized.
Consumers today are not ‘as advertised’ as they are in films like Reefer Madness and other pop culture propaganda. Cannabis consumers are everyday people. In fact, they are ALL people. They are accountants, lawyers, teachers, baristas, whoever – they are all people. The openness of legalization has proven that you can be a recreational cannabis user and still be a highly productive, functional member of society. While this may be a self-evident truth to anyone who uses cannabis, or even to anyone who knows a cannabis enthusiast, we must continue to inform and share information with the general public.
Tearing Down Cannabis Stigma
Those who condemn cannabis as unacceptable – as some addiction or vice that should be discouraged, denied and kept in the shadows – are falling victim to dated, misinformed stereotypes.
We are past the days when cannabis use was seen as disgraceful, career-ruining, and something that you do alone in your basement.
We are starting to finally break through the barrier first erected by prohibition and fortified in the aftershock of criminalization. As each day passes, more people are seeing through the veil and working to normalize weed in our day to day lives.
We are #ProudToBeAllowed. Are you?
3 Things To Fight Cannabis Stigma
1. Continuously educate yourself on the cannabis plant, regulations and usage is an important way to fight cannabis stigma. Take part in an educational class on cannabis or read fact based blogs or news stories written by accredited sources.
2. Normalize cannabis by talking with your friends and family. Talk about risks with balanced information about the effects.
3. Host a cannabis friendly social. Make sure to follow current COVID-19 rules for your city or town. These types of get togethers can normalize cannabis usage with your friends by allowing for education and understanding of the different products available in the market.