Marijuana in the Media

by kashamaar on April 21, 2017 - 10:51am

Marijuana, being considered one of the most relevant topics of today’s day and age, has recently been discussed about its legalization in the country. Before and after Justin Trudeau’s campaign and election, many different opinions and subjective thoughts have been made towards the subject, creating a storm of controversy in today’s media. This is based on his proposal to legalize pot, loosely influenced by Colorado’s success after legalizing the substance all throughout the state. Although the substance is earning a great reputation in the process, the youth that consumes this media information tends to give in to society’s peer pressure. This creates a major ethical dilemma as the young adolescents that take part in this activity are putting the development of their brains at risk. As beneficial as cannabis may be for certain people, it is crucial that it remains out of the hands of young children as it could seriously cause harm to them in the long term. Today’s entertainment media serves as an icon for the younger generations to come and it is by their values that they live.

According to The Globe and Mail, there is an affirmation that marijuana use among adolescents, although less harmful than other drugs, is highly threatening to the brain’s functioning as well having a permanent effect on brain development (Kalant, 2014). Additionally, the potency of the substance has skyrocketed since the 1960s, as the percentage of the natural chemical THC contained in marijuana has evolved from 1% to upwards of 30% nowadays (Barton, 2014). The article is concluded with a research statement from the BMJ, disclosing that the restraint or delay of usage can result in “broad health and social benefits.”

In his study, Primack examined the correlation between the media coverage of marijuana and the attitudes and opinions of teenagers regarding the substance. This was done by surveying well over a thousand students at a high school in suburban Pittsburgh. This study would ultimately seek to uncover the correlation of marijuana use with the consumption of media in order to determine how cannabis is portrayed in the media. The study resulted in a few conclusions; students who listen to over 3-4 hours of music per day are more likely to have consumed marijuana than students who listen to one hour of music or less per day. A simple explanation as to why this may be is the fact that: “…lyrics related to marijuana are currently either more prevalent—or that marijuana is portrayed in more of a positive light in music—than has been previously thought.” (Primack, 2010). Given this data, it is definite that music plays a major role in the influence of marijuana usage among young people today, as this has been the case for the past 40 years in the music industry.

In her study on the primary themes present in mainstream media on cannabis use in Canada, Haines-Saah (2014) examined marijuana usage in relation to the media. Throughout her research, there is a clear substantiation that the use of marijuana in films has made a large influence on general consumption. “In the articles associated with the Popular Culture or Professional Sports themes, it was apparent that a type of moral double standard was at play, whereby marijuana use was normalized for social elites…” (Haines-Saah, 2014). These stories were constructed to condone, and in some cases, celebrate the recreational use of marijuana among the ‘elite.’ This can be demonstrated through films such as the Cheech and Chong film series where the substance becomes a major part of the personas involved. Other examples of musicians that advocate and celebrate the use of cannabis include Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg as well as the Beatles.

In John Markert’s Hooked in Film: Substance Abuse on the Big Screen, there is evidence of a developing attitude and outlook on marijuana use, based on the role it played in entertainment films. Starting from anti-pot propaganda films in the 1930s, the depiction of marijuana in the 1970s slowly changed from a hazardous drug to a substance that is completely harmless. “ This later evolved to a point where in the present day, production companies in the entertainment media have no problem marketing and promoting the use of cannabis. A great example displayed in the text was the Woodstock festival and the rise of the hippie counterculture as both promoted the recreational use of marijuana through the form of music. This provided a favorable view on the substance, linking it with trends deemed provocative enough for the youth to follow.

From a deontological perspective, this is a moral conundrum that requires an effective solution, for as human beings, we are duty bound to protect our children from the dangers of the world. This is an example of virtue ethics as it deals with the rightness or wrongness of the character and the habits of the actor. Where the ‘habit’ can possibly result in harm or self-destructive behavior, it is clear that the substance can be associated with wrongness. Unfortunately, due to the use of cannabis as a framing device in most entertainment media, the portrayal of marijuana in films and music make it extremely difficult to persuade young men and women to resist the urge to fit in. However, there is a subtle and honest way to get the message across. This would be done using the Internet as a tool to reach out and educate the younger generation. VICE Magazine had come out with a video in French where a young man describes his experiences with pot, affirming that things did not turn out well in the end. This effectively establishes an understanding for viewers to grasp that cannabis consumption was not made for everyone and that it may result in harmful consequences. The video later suggests that the viewers should proceed to their website for any additional information on the subject if they have ever experienced something similar with the substance. This results in a beneficial way to inform the youth about the truth behind this substance and the various outcomes that may result from the elongated use of it.


Works Cited:

Barton, Adriana. "Your kid's brain on pot: The real effects of marijuana on teens." The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Eff, Billy. "Pourquoi je badtripe quand je fume du weed - Vice du jour." VICE Video. VICE Magazine, 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

PRIMACK, BRIAN A., KEVIN L. KRAEMER, MICHAEL J. FINE, and MADELINE A. DALTON. "Media Exposure and Marijuana and Alcohol Use Among Adolescents."Substance use & misuse. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Dec. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Haines-Saah, Rebecca J., Joy L. Johnson, Robin Repta, Aleck Ostry, Mary Lynn Young, Jeannie Shoveller, Richard Sawatzky, Lorraine Greaves, and Pamela A. Ratner. "The privileged normalization of marijuana use – an analysis of Canadian newspaper reporting, 1997–2007." Critical Public Health. Taylor & Francis, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Markert, John. Hooked in film: substance abuse on the big screen. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2013. Print.