When one thinks of cannabis there are many things that come to mind before stumbling across the word “nature.” Some of the words and phrases that might come to mind are “gateway drug,” “stoners,” “makes people lazy,” or just plain “drugs.” Whatever it may be, the words cannabis, marijuana, and weed often have connotations of danger, laziness and being something separate from nature. Granted, the views on cannabis and cannabis law have become more progressive, but there is still a long way to go. Due to cannabis and cannabis use being stigmatized in society (and illegal), most people’s first experiences with it are through media depiction. This may be through TV shows, “pop science” or anti-drug campaigns. It is an exceedingly common theme to depict those that consume cannabis as lazy, unintelligent, and unmotivated. Anti-drug campaigns, going as far back as the fifties, portray marijuana as a dangerous and addictive gateway drug that can potentially cause psychosis. Having these types of representations be our first interaction with cannabis, without having a chance to form our own opinions, is problematic for a multitude of reasons.
It’s common knowledge that the general attitude that the members of a society hold regarding a specific subject determines the laws regarding that subject. Creating and perpetuating the stigma around cannabis and cannabis use, through media and federal law, before one has the opportunity to interact with it on a personal level, prevents the members of that society from truly playing a role in the laws that constrain cannabis use. This is because these members are merely regurgitating what they have been told cannabis is. This has social impacts. One well known social impact is that anti-cannabis laws tend to impact Black and Latinx people at much higher rates than white people, even when the groups consume marijuana at similar rates. Additionally, even though people of color are convicted at much higher rates for the violations of cannabis law, they do not get to benefit from the cannabis industry as much as their white counterparts (a large majority of the founders and owners of marijuana businesses are white, around 81 percent). The depiction of cannabis as harmful desensitizes us and reduces the outrage that we ought to feel towards the imprisonment of other human beings for their consumption of a natural plant. Due to this desensitization, we do not put enough pressure on local legislators to change these harmful and racially skewed anti-marijuana laws.
Another impact is that the demonization of marijuana, without any first-hand experience, can make us think of cannabis as something separate from nature. This prevents us from seeing it for what it really is: a plant, an aspect of nature that our Mother Earth has created for our use and enjoyment. To look at it through an atomistic lens as merely a drug prevents us from looking at and further exploring the many benefits of cannabis, be it cannabis as medicine and its possible contributions to research, cannabis as a sustainable source of clothing, food, textiles and bioplastics (by using hemp). Using cannabis for clothing, bioplastics and textiles can potentially aid in moving towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly way of life. Thus, to frame cannabis as an illicit substance that should be restricted, hidden and controlled, instead of representing it as a part of nature that can benefit us and our planet is inaccurate, detrimental and generally disadvantageous.