A Bad Move For One Marijuana Marketing Firm
The New York Times ran an article earlier this week about two young women on a mission to “rebrand” marijuana. I have read the article over and over and I honestly can not find anything good to say about it. I do not like the message that these women are sending, beginning with the picture above. Here the women stand among flourishing pot plants with smug looks and crossed arms. At first glance I couldn’t tell if they were trying to show their support of this plant or their disgust. Apparently others have received the same vibe. And, for the record, I purposely chose not to mention the company or the names of the women because I do not want to give them any more publicity. If you would like, you can read the full NY Times story here.
The main reason these women are receiving such criticism is because of the negative comments they made about the current state of the cannabis industry. In fact, after the article was published, they actually lost a client. It begins with the statement that their mission is, “…weeding out the stoners…We want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis.” It then goes on to compare dispensaries to “underground abortion clinics” and says that walking into a dispensary is like, “…walking into a stoner’s basement”. The women want people to stop using the word “pot” and to change the way people refer to using the plant. They feel that one should not say “smoke” but rather that they “consume”. The article ends with yet another bitter statement as the women claim that, “It’s about reaching nonconsumers. Women. Young people. Business professionals. Grandmothers and soccer moms. People like me.”
People like you? Well, exactly who do you think you are? And reaching nonconsumers sounds like a form of peer-pressure to me. There are currently enough people who use marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes that it is estimated to be a legitimate $10 billion industry in just a few short years. The movement doesn’t need to attract any newcomers. It doesn’t need any more “Maureen Dowds” giving marijuana a bad rap because they didn’t take the time to educate themselves before jumping on the bandwagon. It doesn’t need everyone to run out and start smoking weed because it’s the cool thing to do right now. It needs the support and recognition that it has been fighting for since pot prohibition began.
The article asks, “How can the pot industry shed its stoner stigma?” Well, I for one believe that it is women like this that gave the industry the stigma in the first place. And guess what else ladies? “Stoners” are in fact normal, professional, and successful people. In fact, “stoners” are the reason that the marijuana legalization movement has gotten to where it is today. The pot industry doesn’t need to be rebranded so that people can feel better about themselves and tell their friends that, “I’m not a stoner, I’m a cannabis consumer”. As marijuana becomes more mainstream, what the movement needs is for people to stop pointing fingers, take a good look in the mirror, and start educating themselves on this history of prohibition, the “stoners” who have stood up for what they believed in, and the true benefits of this wonderful plant. It is only on a united front that Americans will ever feel safe enough to step out of the shadows and admit that you can be both a stoner and soccer mom at the same time.
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I wholeheartedly agree with your critique of these two women, on both their unhelpful, divisive messaging and their personal perspective which is exposed by it. This type of thing infuriated me 24 years ago at the beginning of the Hemp Movement and as your article points out, it’s still happening today.
In 1990, I was working with Jack Herer to promote hemp and help organize/train new hemp enthusiasts so they could effectively spread the message of how industrial hemp can benefit us all, both environmentally and economically. During this time I was encountering people who, newly informed and motivated by this information, were taking on the same negative, shaming, unhelpful attitude. They were insisting “their” group would shun the issue of marijuana legalization and focus exclusively on hemp and hemp alone.
That focus alone “could” be acceptable, if they were nonsmokers whose beliefs didn’t include legalization, but this was not the case. These were long time smokers who were insisting that everyone needed to get haircuts, wear suits and ties and adopt a formal corporate attitude in order to be “accepted”. It was their perspective and ultimately the messaging that resulted from it that I found so reprehensible.
They were obviously feeling a personal shame and insecurity at not being accepted in the mainstream, corporate, power-lunch society that was all the rage in the mid to late eighties. These people were seeking to hide their personal use and disassociate themselves completely from the pot smoking community they had belonged to for so long, so they could gain a sense of personal acceptance and (respectability?) and they saw hemp as that ticket. So they showed their self-hatred and shunned the civil rights issues of personal choice that is inherent in the fight for marijuana legalization, to try an create a caste-system within the marijuana community that disrespected the stoners and placed themselves as the “better-thans”. I found this incredibly offensive!
Today I encounter both hemp enthusiasts and medical marijuana advocates who also reject marijuana legalization. Most of these people who do so are doing it because they strongly believe in the importance of hemp for environmental and/or economical reasons or medicinal marijuana because of the great effects in can have on relieving the suffering of others and they never saw recreational use as acceptable in their world view in the first place.
I do not see these people as self-haters, nor traitors to their community, because they were never a part of the (smoking) community. I do see them as closed minded people, probably ingrained with the same, or at least similar, type of reefer madness that fuels the anti-marijuana folks. I still try to overcome ignorance-fueled perspective with information, reasoning and science as well as an appeal to their humanity, because the right to choose for one’s self whether to smoke or not to smoke without fear of prosecution is still a basic civil rights issue.
To conclude, I want to say that I’ve enjoyed successes in both the marijuana legalization movement and in the corporate world and have done so in each with long hair and short hair, with tye-dye and with suit and tie. Not always excepted by everyone, but always true to myself. Never shunning one community for acceptance in the other. I want to say that I am very pleased that in your article you pointed out and exposed the horrible attitudes and perspectives of these two women. As they chose to express themselves, they are an affront to pot smokers everywhere. We are not just old hippies. We are old hippies, young rappers, moms, dads, business owners, retirees, religious and atheist . . . and more. We need to reject their caste-system and accept ourselves as one very large, very diverse community who refuses to self-hate or think ourselves holier-than-though. We should be united and working together for the betterment of us all.
Steven G. Nobodi
Director of PCUCAMP