Cheech & Chong, Slater, Harold & Kumar, The Dude, Dale & Saul, and nearly the entire cast of That 70s Show. If you don’t know these characters, you may not be old enough to be reading this post. They are some of the most famous cannabis consumers in popular fiction which have undoubtedly contributed to the stigma we face today; a topic we will be exploring in this three part series.

Cannabis Stigma in Canada

Throughout the years, North American society has enjoyed portraying marijuana users as lazy, under-achieving, idealistic, and at the extreme, fascist. Associations that are unfortunately not just going to disappear with the recent legalization.

Canada based research company, Ipsos Reid, performed an exclusive survey for Global News in which they found that despite legalization, 6 in 10 respondents stated they still wouldn’t be comfortable publicly consuming cannabis and over half of all respondents were still not planning on telling people they use it.

They also found that out of all cannabis users surveyed, Atlantic province residents, medicinal marijuana recipients, women, and those between the ages of 18-34 were even more likely to state that they wouldn’t be comfortable publicly using cannabis.

Morality and Marijuana

What’s the big deal? Cannabis activist, Jodie Emery, attributes the current stigma at hand largely to the history of anti-pot propaganda perpetuated by the government for decades, resulting in what is commonly referred to as reefer madness – a term coined after the controversial 1930s film.

The film’s entire premise revolves around the evils of marijuana illustrated by a plot line where innocent high school students are lured by drug pushers to try cannabis, ultimately leading to their corruption. Soon after merely trying the substance, the students are shown as out of control fiends driven to commit acts of manslaughter, suicide, and attempted rape due to their cannabis use which becomes synonymous with addiction.

Let’s pause and let that sink in while our eyes roll back to the proper place in their sockets.

Intended as a cautionary melodrama, this morality tale was created in an effort to bolster the US’ mission to prohibit marijuana which wasn’t officially outlawed until the 1970s. By this time, the film began to be viewed as a ridiculous satire by most of the population as marijuana became considered a lesser evil with the rise of psychedelics. For this reason, the propaganda shift that we are all most familiar with occurred. Since marijuana could no longer be labelled a dangerous drug in and of itself, it became a gateway drug that was sure to lead even the most well-intentioned recreational user down a path of chemical dependency.

Are Alcohol and Tobacco More Civilized Substances?

Often shown to be primarily used by successful characters with status, alcohol and tobacco continue to be normalized, even glamourized, in popular fiction. Join us in part two of this series where we take a closer look at the frustrating fact that our society prefers the idea of other substances more than smoking one dried plant over another.