There is a lot of stigma about cannabis in the United States, but it is not caused by the actual drug. I am surprised at how many people who smoke marijuana think that it is the only cause of the stigma, which is not the case. The stigma surrounds the fact that there are people out there who will use any means necessary to get their hands on it. The world of illicit drug trafficking is a violent and dangerous world that is changing rapidly. The only way to stop the stigma surrounding the plant is to stop the trafficking of it in the first place.

As the legalization of cannabis continues to spread across the country, many are wondering if the plant really does have an effect on the stigma surrounding it. With marijuana now legal in thirty states (and the District of Columbia), does this mean society is no longer stigmatizing it? Or do people still believe that it’s a dangerous drug and it’s not worth the risk?

Cannabis is considered one of the most popular recreational substances in the world, but remains illegal in many places. Why? What’s behind the madness of hiding this plant from people? The answers are greed, corruption, power and control. Cannabis prohibition and media campaigns like Reefer Madness have had a devastating effect on cannabis that only time can fix. You can’t just undo over 8 decades of negative stigma. You’re lucky if you accomplish this task in 80 years.

Negative laws and rulings on cannabis have shaped prohibition’s inglorious past and left an ugly face in our forward-looking present. Trying to convey the truth about cannabis to today’s people, when we need more research, is quite a task. Surely people in political positions can’t read? There are studies that support the effectiveness of cannabis as medicine, and you only need to read them to be convinced.

But unfortunately, many people prefer to stick with what they’ve been told about cannabis rather than learn more about it. When politicians speak out in favor of legalizing cannabis, it is usually because of a sick family member, cannabis tax revenues, or electoral support.

Have you ever wondered if cannabis laws affect the way people view the plant? Do you think that countries with stricter penalties for cannabis have a deeper connection to the negative stigma of cannabis inherited from past prohibition? The places where cannabis is most demonized are usually the places where people are most brainwashed. This is probably why cannabis is still illegal in states like South Carolina, Alabama and others that continue to support draconian cannabis prohibition.

Quotes from the political past of reclamation

In the past, some have claimed that cannabis is bad for you. Senior politicians and government officials must have known what they were talking about, right? Here are some quotes that have been used by politicians and statesmen from the past and from a not so distant past.

  • One can only speculate on the number of murders, suicides, robberies, assaults, incarcerations, burglaries and acts of mania it causes each year, especially among young people.  No one knows, when he puts a marijuana cigarette to his lips, whether he will become a happy jubilant in a musical paradise, a raving lunatic, a quiet philosopher, or a murderer – H.J. Anslinger.
  • The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House afterward had two enemies: anti-war leftists and blacks. You know what I mean? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be anti-war or black, but by making society associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both, we could destroy those communities.  We could arrest their leaders, storm their homes, disrupt their meetings and slander them on the news night after night.  Did we know we’d be lying about drugs?  Of course it is. -John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s adjutant, 1994.
  • Good people don’t smoke marijuana – former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, April 2016.

Research shows that strict cannabis laws have a negative effect on attitudes towards cannabis in related areas

A recent study, first published on 23. December 2023 in the European Journal of Criminology, is titled Cannabis Users and Stigma: A comparison of users in European countries with different cannabis policies allows the impact of cannabis laws and associated stigma to be examined. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Amsterdam and examined seven European countries, each with a different degree of criminalization of cannabis.

The aim was to determine whether stigma towards cannabis is higher in regions with severe penalties for cannabis possession. The study concluded that regions with harsher penalties for cannabis use also have increased stigma about cannabis. According to the study, the aim was to find out to what extent and how cannabis users in different countries with different cannabis policies perceive, experience and react to stigma. More specifically, we examined three aspects of the stigma experienced by illicit drug users: Discrimination, perceived devaluation and exclusion.

We still have a lot to do to get rid of the stigma

It is not easy to overcome the negative stigma of anti-cannabis laws based on racism and lies. In areas where penalties for cannabis use are more severe, you will often find people who are less open to information about cannabis. Many people living in areas with strict cannabis laws are often exposed to negative propaganda against cannabis through knowledge sharing and research. Most people are unaware of the science behind cannabinoid therapy, especially in some countries and areas where stricter restrictions apply.

The complexity of cannabinoids, terpenes, receptors, and the discourse on the mammalian endogenous endocannabinoid system is not the kind of knowledge the average person usually possesses, unless they are a cannabis activist or patient. It can therefore be difficult to overcome negative perceptions of cannabis. If people only know what they have seen about cannabis and what they have been told, they need to find out the truth for themselves.

Cannabis will not make you grow long hair, become unemployed or live on your family or friends couch, play video games and eat pizza all day. It’s amazing. It provides millions of people with a better quality of health and well-being. It is the potential for financial stability and prosperity for future generations. Help remove the stigma of cannabis. Take the time to learn more about this amazing plant and all the possibilities it offers the planet and the people on it, and then share that knowledge with everyone you meet!

Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur and activist fighting for the abolition of drug prohibition around the world, for a better future for all. Ashley is passionate about sharing knowledge about the divine plant that is cannabis. She believes that one seed can make all the difference and that together, through education, we can end the stigma that prevents cannabis from reaching its full potential worldwide.

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