Media and Marijuana – How the Media Reacts to the Cannabis Legalization

Source: The Green Fund

Marijuana legalization has remained one of the most controversial issues in the field of public health. For over four decades, tough, ineffective policies have been imposed to avoid the use of this drug. Now that the wave of legalization is spreading through different places in the world, it is a great time to learn more about it. Media has the power to influence people’s perceptions about different public health policies including cannabis legalization. This is why it is important to understand how the media reacts to this issue. Analyzing the articles from newspapers and magazines in the past few years, we can come across some important findings that we discuss here.

Cannabis is the most used illegal drug in the United States and the federal government has announced the enforcement policy that makes it clear that the drug remains federally illegal. However, a lot has changed in recent years regarding marijuana legalization in the country. Almost all states have introduced laws that permit the cultivation, distribution and possession of weed. Medical use of this supplement has been legalized for patients with approved conditions. These states also have a registry that allows possession of a specific amount of the herb for medicinal purposes.

Findings have revealed that newspapers have described weed legalization as a law enforcement problem rather than a medical or economic concern. Moreover, this issue has been presented uniquely during different presidential durations. Overall, cannabis legalization news stories have been written with a neutral tone. It was also seen that newspapers that were known to be politically liberal often had a positive tone as compared to those classified as conservative. The media’s reaction to an issue can affect how the public evaluates it and influences their judgement. Thus, Americans are more likely to see the drug’s legalization as a legal issue rather than a health problem.

The findings also suggest that media stories were presented differently in different presidential periods. During the period of the Obama administration, newspapers presented the stories with a concept of legalization. In 2012, a few states took initiative regarding the allowance of recreational use of the drug. These new laws created a number of stories in that period. In 2014, marijuana legalization was often discussed as a business concern. A number of stories discussed the economic effects of cannabis legalization in that period. During the Clinton period, a youth drug use theme was followed by the media. Though over half of the media articles described the problem of legalization in a neutral tone, it is seen that positive stories were more often published than negative ones.

Like other policies in the War on Drugs, weed legalization narratives by media influence public opinion and support and decide the success or failure of the attempts. Media stories often ignore the wider trend and focus on crimes as individual events. Such a form of crime news is often over-presented as compared to other topics, thereby attracting more attention than any other. One reason for this is that media institutions depend on government sources for updates. Such stories create the notion that crime rates are high. This suggests that media reactions can impact the cultural and social notions of the public about the issue.

New and new magazines are being introduced that fill with pot stories and trends. These are the parts of the media boom that are seen as weed emerges as a legal drug. A number of new pot publications are popping up in print as well as online to help enthusiasts learn more about their subject of interest. The media shows proliferation as more public opinions and polls depict the support for legalization. The market is growing by leaps and bounds and marijuana is expected to be one of the biggest industries in the coming years. This growth sparks a boom in media as journalists explore the economic, social, cultural and political implications. This is boosted by funding from the sellers of weed accessories and cannabis dispensaries.