As we continue our ongoing mission to promote marijuana legalization, we are often met by mockery in the mainstream. Headline writers and news anchors can’t wait to drop their pot pun into coverage of our issue. Whether it is a plan that goes “up in smoke,” regulations that must be “hashed out,” a politician who is “blazing a trail,” or even an initiative considered a “pipe dream,” there is always a giggle factor among major media when it comes to covering cannabis.
Last week, Michigan Public Radio needlessly added “Dude:” to the beginning of last week’s headline “State lawmaker floats ‘pot for potholes’ idea.” Can you imagine a public radio station adding “Bruthas!” to “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leads protest march in Selma” as a headline? We know, a Republican state rep who wants to tax marijuana to fix crumbling roads in Michigan is no Dr. King bus protest, but it is certainly a story worthy of respect. So what purpose does adding “Dude:” to the story have but to malign our issue?
A local paper in Massachusetts earlier this month wrote “Medical marijuana talk brings smoke, then fire to Middleboro meeting.” The article is about a clash by two lawmakers over whether bringing a dispensary to their town would increase crime. So, yeah, you could say “Medical marijuana talk brings heated debate to Middleboro meeting,” but doesn’t “smoke, then fire” seem clumsily forced into that headline? “Smoke” is usually a metaphor for confusing, concealing, and distracting, but here it seems designed to make sure “smoke” goes with “marijuana.”
CNN.com ran a piece on the changing attitudes toward legalization this August with the headline “As haze clears, are American opinions on marijuana reaching tipping point?” Why add that opening clause “As haze clears?” The article never indicates there was any metaphorical “haze” to “clear”; it even specifically says “Everyone has heard the arguments in the legalization debate … but there isn't much new to say.” It is subtle, but it is a way of continuing to frame our issue as of one “stoners are smoking pot to get high” instead of “Americans recognizing futility of prohibition.”
If marijuana legalization is to continue -- and that’s “if,” don’t assume times can’t change (see: Carter to Reagan) -- we need to fight for the respect our issue deserves. Let the media know you are not happy with the mocking tone they take with the issue of marijuana legalization. If they have comments pages or take letters or call-ins, make your distaste known to them. Reporters often leave a contact number, email or Twitter address for your comments -- be polite and explain why those puns bother you. Most of them probably have no personal knowledge of our world and don’t even know they’re offending us.