Reaching the Masses: How The Media Shapes Public Opinion

By Staff Writer

The legalization movement is taking the world by storm. With every passing legislation, society as a whole is becoming more comfortable with the idea of legal cannabis.

Whether you are looking at Facebook posts or watching TV, you’ll see that America is beginning to stray more and more from the “just say no” take on the plant.

The thing is, many people are starting to let go of the misconception that the plant is a devious gateway drug. It’s interesting to think about how far we’ve come in the last few decades— but how did we get there?

There were several contributing factors that led to this shift in attitude.

Research-wise, a large amount of empirical evidence collected debunked many of the cannabis myths. These studies helped demonstrate that cannabis use (for any reason) is not as serious as a concern as people had previously made it out to be (CADCA, 2003).

All these supposed “degenerate” properties of cannabis use did not live up to the hype when put to the test. In fact, there were even cases when the effects of cannabis were beneficial in certain medical circumstances.

With several scientific communities supporting the cannabis movement, a safe platform emerged for users to openly share their experiences. Users took to social media, conferences, and even television to spread the word.

Collecting a mixture of judgment and support, those who chose to go public face still the risk of public backlash. Their bravery to come forward also has an immense impact that aids with the movement.

These individuals also offered the audience insight into exactly who is using cannabis. To the surprise of many, a large number of these people were not just some deviant thugs looking to get high. The movement was also in favor of people who use the substance medicinally.

Medical cannabis is arguably a slightly different topic within the legalization movement. As of 2020, an overwhelming majority of states have already made cannabis legal for licensed cardholders to obtain under a doctor’s supervision.

In the remaining conservative states that maintain stricter stances, specific strains of derived cannabidiol (CBD) are often still allowed with special permission.

Many of these legislations follow overwhelming public pressure due in part to viral stories about desperate parents with epileptic children (Maa & Figi, 2014) or chemotherapy patients looking for relief (Kramer, 2015). While these are obviously effective, there is something to be said about public attitudes following a bit of Hollywood treatment.

Movies are a reliable method to give your audience a better impression than a paragraph-long blog post or two-minute news segment. An advocacy group decided to take matters into their own hands and partner up with producers at OAKZ Media.

Weediatrics: A Covert Medical Mission will follow the lives of “underground” parents who turn to cannabis compounds to treat their children’s debilitating diseases such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism spectrum disorder.

The film aims to raise awareness about the benefits of medical cannabis and the challenges parents face when federal policies force them to break the law so their kids don’t have to suffer. The upcoming movie is building considerable anticipation as fans wait for the premiere in 2020.

While these indie films are a great way to demonstrate that you don’t need to be famous to be a significant advocate, the power of celebrity endorsement in any market should never be underestimated (McCracken, 1989).

The entertainment industry has had a significant impact on cannabis perception. Take a look at one of the U.S.’s most popular and prominent cannabis users— Calvin Broadus, better known as Snoop Dogg.

Celebrities have a lot of social power, and scientists have been able to make significant connections with the public perception of the movement and popular song lyrics (Graves, 2019).

Although it is always moving to hear anecdotes from “regular citizens,” these often don’t have the kind of impact or ability to garner the necessary support to gain significant momentum.

While there is always some debate over whether or not celebrities having such power is a good thing, these findings can demonstrate the importance of people “going public.” This is especially important when it comes to the medical aspect of cannabis use.

One such public figure, Elias Theodorou, has just been granted permission for therapeutic cannabis. According to recently released statements, this veteran UFC fighter will be the first professional mixed martial artist to get this allowance.

This wasn’t an easy feat, as he faced rejection upon his initial request for approval. Theodorou’s subsequent advocacy helped contribute to the committee’s change of heart.

He will be allowed to continue competing in the industry without fear of the penalty following drug testing. This revolutionary move on the part of the British Columbia Athletic Commission has helped normalize medical cannabis as a supported medical solution.

The decision just carved the path for someone else out there looking for the same kind of clearance. Someone a little less powerful in a comparable situation can now reference this event when looking for help.

It may seem counterproductive for adults to make the argument “he can do it, why can’t I?” but these are the kind of questions that accelerate change.

Like it or not, the media has an immense influence on public health. When power is put in the right hands, the entertainment industry has the power to make the world a better place.

Citations

  1. Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America 
  2. A Case Study on Snoop Dogg
  3. a cancer journal for clinicians
  4. Epilepsia
  5. Journal of consumer research