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Media complicity and insensitivity against cannabis is discriminatory

July 2, 2012

Are editors and journalists willing co-conspirators in the government’s effort to beat back cannabis reform and legalization initiatives across the country and stigmatize it’s consumers, or are they just insensitive to the majority of Americans who believe cannabis should be legal, and those who choose to consume it.

Watch any TV newscast, pick up a local paper, or read a few internet reports about cannabis. In almost every instance that account will be unquestionably supportive of law enforcement, many times printing false and discriminatory quotes that have no basis in fact. Editors reveal the names of suspects before they’ve been convicted of any crime, and make derogatory and unproven accusations about them and cannabis, crippling the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Some amount of complicity is expected. Broadcast networks must be federally licensed so it doesn’t make good sense to bite the hand that feeds you. Additionally the Office of National Drug Control Policy created the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign in 1998 and forged economic partnerships with many broadcasters to broadly communicate their anti-drug message. But there comes a point when obligatory propagandizing exceeds that relationship, and that’s when media outlets callously demean a person or people simply for their lifestyle or because they have a cognitive disability. Intolerant journalism of that kind is totally unacceptable and should not be part of any governmental partnership.

The damage from malicious headlines, derogatory quotes, and misinformation is disturbingly deceiving, but is effectively shaping the national perception of cannabis. Readers and viewers absorb repetitive, yet imperceptibly clear messages that it’s acceptable, nay fashionable to belittle a minority class of people if they like or consume cannabis. The constant attempt to link organic cannabis with synthetic drugs, heroin and cocaine do not seem to be resonating with a public that firmly supports it’s legalization. Smaller media outlets lack the resources to produce their own content so they often recapitulate material from bigger networks to fill space or air. Multiply that by thousands of reports by thousands of media outlets over a period of many years, and that trickle-down effect has sufficiently conditioned the masses to accept fallacious reports as fact. Also, lest we forget, not all media outlets have the perceived liberal bias. Some editors and news directors willing distort reports regarding drugs based on personal beliefs and experiences.

Media outlets recently established a new low and have been publishing reports that not only surpass any governmental courtesy, they have devolved to slanderous assaults and sensational headlines. Recent reports attempt to link cannabis with K2 and Spice-like products by describing them as so-called synthetic marijuana, a derogatory term coined by the ONDCP as part of their anti-drug campaign. A report about a Texas man was carried by hundreds of media outlets describing him as the man who consumed “synthetic marijuana” then ate the family dog. Most recently, a report from Florida went viral after it was reported that a “Cannabis Cannibal” was shot and killed while eating another man’s face! Below is one account that attempts to associate this man’s debilitating mental condition with a particular taxa of cannabis, Cannabis Sativa, which would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive;

An addiction expert said she wouldn’t rule out marijuana causing the agitation.

“It could have been the strain of marijuana that increases the dopamine in the brain, such as sativa,” said Dr. Patricia Junquera, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

There are two strains of marijuana called sativa and indica. The sativa increases dopamine and gives you energy while decreasing pain threshold. Indica is a “sleepy high,” she explained.

“People don’t really know what the amount of either is in each little packet of marijuana,” she explained. “And we can’t differentiate between the two in the blood, much less in a dead person.”

She also suggested that if Eugene had a mental disorder, “the marijuana could have increased even further the dopamine levels and aggravated the situation. So that can’t be ruled out.”

The long tangled roots of this tree of misinformation were incubated by media baron William Randolph Hurst, and the original O.G. G-man, Harry J. Anslinger who conceived the idea and discovered the power of this partnership. The tree has grown large and media branches now publish lush, leafy reports across the globe to reinforce a negative perception of cannabis and help federal officials retain jurisdiction over U.S. cannabis policy. That’s become standard operating procedure for every major media outlet since, and the aggregate effect of this complicit and willing campaign of misinformation has certainly slowed, but has not been able to stop the progress of cannabis reform efforts in this country. Cannabis reform efforts are happening in almost state, marching forward and undeterred by the vast resources of the United States government, causing the popularity of legalization to now be at an all-time high, and public support for medical cannabis to swell above 70% nationally! How can policies that produce results like that be considered a success for prohibitionists?

In the face of this overwhelming media force and as noted, hemp and cannabis continue to gain popularity. Public demand for domestically-produced cannabis is rising as more states enact compassionate use medical cannabis legislation, and patients decrease their dependence on opiates and begin supplementing their pain medication with medical cannabis products. This is a positive change that will result in less abuse and availability of deadly prescription pain-killers. Even people who don’t consume cannabis, but live in states with compassionate use laws are exposed to cannabis consumers more frequently and tend to be more tolerant of them and cannabis. State by state, the more people are exposed to cannabis, they become more accepting of it and less likely to believe negative reports that contradict their experiences. This is a war to win the hearts and minds of the public on the issue of cannabis. Continued efforts by the army of grass roots cannabis reform advocates is competing with the government and media sources for that support and the reformers are winning! It took over 60 years for the tree of misinformation to mature, and it will take advocates at least another generation to change enough minds to render the government/media relationship negligible.

2 June ~ 10:51 Revision

Brad Forrester is the Local Program Director for the Cheboygan County Affiliate of the Michigan Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

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