Written by Christopher Meyer | 6:16 pm on October 5, 2011
Last week the Denver Post published a map of Colorado medical marijuana centers and infused product manufacturers in the crime section of their blog.
What crime is it to open a business that’s been approved by Colorado voters and legislators?
Denver Relief pays taxes, fees, and obeys regulations so that we can be legal, yet almost every day selling medical marijuana is treated as criminal behavior.
Media influence through language
According to the Denver Post we are ‘pot advocates‘, but ‘pot’ has a tradition of being used as a pejorative of cannabis notably by the war on drugs.
Such open opposition to cannabis within news organizations not only dishonors journalistic integrity, but reveals latent attitudes present throughout the country.
Media conglomerates would never go as far as denouncing marijuana, but their general attitude is apparent in the slang terms commonly used to describe it. Terms like ‘dope‘ and ‘weed‘ carry a demeaning connotation when they print in headlines or roll off of news anchor’s tongues.
Despite numerous studies showing otherwise, major news outlets are still unable to accept marijuana as a medicine largely because of cultural bias against it.
Headlines don’t refer to crude oil as ‘Texas tea’ though it’s a reasonably well known, albeit hokey, slang term. Nor do they call alcohol ‘hooch’ or ‘booze’ in the many articles stating ‘one glass of wine a day is good for you’, though they have a similar connotation as ‘weed’.
So why oh why can’t we begin to call cannabis what it is: medicine.
Marijuana is a spanish term that came into use in the English language with the integration of Mexican natives. It became widely used in English when William Hearst used yellow journalism to campaign against ‘marihuana’ as it’s prohibition also prohibited hemp, a competitor of Hearst’s paper industry.
Over the years cannabis has gathered a large number of slang terms which are easily incorporated into cheeky headline puns winking about what cannabis is really used for.
We are careful about the words we choose to use at Denver Relief, yet we are aware the culture from which cannabis is emerging brings baggage with it including many terms that may indicate non-medical use.
Weed, chronic, blazed, ripped, pot, herb, dank, kind bud, fire, and others suggest to outsiders that those who use cannabis are only seeking a ‘cheap high’ akin to a night of drinking.
The power of language to affect our perceptions is immense and now the slang of cannabis is being used against it.
It is time journalists and reporters realize that they compromise their own integrity when they carelessly produce stories that betray their personal bias and use language unbefitting of professionals.
For many cannabis is an invaluable healing tool and that should be respected. Medical marijuana has many opponents, language shouldn’t be one of them.
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