While it’s true that things like ballot measures, rallies, and contacting your local representative are very important to cannabis law reform, there is another aspect to the inevitable march of legalization that may sometimes be overlooked; but it has done much over the last 40 years to advance our cause.
I’m talking about what I – and many others – call “marijuana awareness.” And I don’t just mean the “truth about cannabis,” although that is what the “awareness” boils down to for most. It begins when someone sees marijuana mentioned in pop culture or on the news. Of course that doesn’t show them the truth of cannabis; it’s very possible that when they see cannabis on TV or on the internet, it’s being shown in a negative light.
But I would submit that it doesn’t matter. Any kind of cannabis awareness is good in the long run. The more marijuana entrenches itself in our culture, and the more people are used to hearing about it and seeing it, the better for our movement.
The silly “stoner” stereotypes may strike some as a drawback for our movement, but I think the stereotypes and the propaganda are so old and so “over-done” that most people can see through them. The more weed is made fun of, the more people see it as the harmless plant it is. The more people see the “420” episode of Family Guy, or see Homer Simpson smoke a joint, or watch Montel Williams talk about his pain and medical marijuana use on a talk show, the more cannabis enters the consciousness of the mainstream of society. And while some may discount the effect that has, don’t be so quick to do so.
A pivotal point in any piece of legislation or ballot measure is the point when a person hears about it for the first time; before all the campaigning and talking points, many people make up their mind on an issue when they first hear about it. If they hear about marijuana legalization, their first thought may be disgust. But if the cannabis plant is in their consciousness as a harmless plant, they may disregard their knee-jerk reaction and delve further into the issue. And people delving into the issue of cannabis can only be good for our movement.
So the next time you see a TV show or movie with a “stoner” in it, don’t worry if it casts us in a bad light. We need marijuana to be as common in people’s minds as alcohol. That way, when legalization comes up, less people will think it’s a big deal and will be less likely to vote against it. There are many cannabis users in this country, but we must remember that we remain a minority.