The fact that the cannabis community as a whole encounters censorship more often than not should not come as a surprise to anyone. Indeed, the legal status of the Cannabis Sativa plant, in its psychoactive form or otherwise, is still the subject of great discord in many places of the world: a number of these places are currently struggling with the ideological and ethical questions linked to the use of the plant, whether or not to legalize it, and if so, under which conditions. However, there is a noticeable difference between the respective manners in which the parties involved are represented.
The fact that the cannabis community as a whole encounters censorship more often than not should not come as a surprise to anyone. Indeed, the legal status of the Cannabis Sativa plant, in its psychoactive form or otherwise, is still the subject of great discord in many places of the world: a number of these places are currently struggling with the ideological and ethical questions linked to the use of the plant, whether or not to legalize it, and if so, under which conditions.
However, there is a noticeable difference between the respective manners in which the parties involved are represented.
Imbalance in representation
For every niche, there is an expert community. The cannabis world is no exception, and this community is growing, notably due to the increasing visibility of industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis. This phenomenon has been greatly amplified with the rise of social media, and nowadays it is fairly easy to get access to sensible, scientifically accurate information about cannabis, hemp, and their respective properties – provided one already has access to a fairly large community of aficionados and specialists.
But as far as average citizens are concerned, pro-cannabis views are scarcely represented in mainstream media. One could argue that this is somewhat easily explainable by the fact that the people who own, manage or create content for publications falling into this “mainstream media” category are not, in fact, pro-cannabis. This hypothesis is something of a widespread preconceived idea about cannabis consumers, who, due to improper media coverage, are rarely associated with being successful, high-functioning professionals. Nevertheless, some of these people managed to put themselves out there at one point or another, although even fewer of them succeed in making this point a part of their identity as media professionals.
Celebrity Hall of Shame
Evidently, regardless of topic, eminent publications have to watch out for “unfortunate” opinion pieces, which in worst case scenarios could reflect poorly on the newspaper or magazine’s reputation as a whole. It is interesting however to remember that journalistic work – originally – is meant to be as neutral as possible, and therefore should be free of any censorship, unfortunate coverage choice notwithstanding.
On the other hand, the infamous “pothead write-up”, prerogative of “liberal” columnists, yet undeniable tool for the star-spangled headcount of visible cannabis smokers, is starting to get stale. After all, there are countless medical and scientific studies on the cannabis topic which demonstrate the healing effects of the plant, as well as many accounts from patients who cured or alleviated symptoms of a large range of diseases with the help of cannabis. Did the world truly need Whoopi Goldberg to turn into a “pot columnist” to accept that medicinal cannabis helps patients suffering from glaucoma? In many other domains, scientific and/or anecdotal evidence seem to rank higher than “celebrity outings” as far as properly informative press goes.
The added value of journalists, bloggers, or Hollywood celebrities coming out of the cannabis closet is tremendous on a communitarian level, yet bears close to no avail from a legislative perspective. Every kind of help is always appreciated, but especially since lives are at stake, the fact that medical progress could depend on the opinions and efforts of the rich and the glamorous is a definite let-down, which says a lot about modern civilisations.
War On Progress
There are of course many other aspects of supporting cannabis besides journalism, whether downright activism, the simple act of expressing oneself on the topic, or anything in between. As soon as the War On Drugs kicked off, the success of the cannabis community principally relied on increasing its reach, in the hope of becoming a majority consequential enough to be able to tilt the balance in favour of its cause.
As mentioned earlier, social media is a tremendously efficient tool for said community. Virality is the key, a very well-known fact exploited by activists and prohibitionists alike. But, short of saying that prohibition is part of the establishment’s agenda for the next decade, it is crystal clear to most people that only a certain part of the population owns the power to censor content.
Therefore, when examples of social media platforms shutting down cannabis-related content start piling up, it becomes harder and harder to give the benefit of the doubt to the involved media companies.
2010’s California Proposition 19 might be one of the initiatives that suffered from censorship; the advocacy group’s most efficient campaign video was flagged as “offensive”, thus making it unavailable to most visitors worldwide, even though it merely features (non-smoked) joints, and lighters. Incidentally, the block occurred a few days before the vote, which is known to be a critical time for opinion shifts, and as it often goes, no recourse was possible. The same video streaming website is known to have a somewhat selective sensitivity to cannabis-related contents; while a plethora of videos of users of just about any age consuming cannabis in just about every manner are available on the platform, anything that could truly favour the cannabis community on a more serious level is systematically edited.
For instance, the 2012 edition of “Your Interview with the President”, organized by the White House and hosted by major social media platforms, was “inexplicably” edited to leave out a single question from retired LAPD Chief of Police Stephen Downing: unsurprisingly, a cannabis-related one. On the other hand, topics which were thoroughly covered included: preferred midnight snacks, sports and date night with Mrs Obama.
Avid readers of the Sensi blog and loyal followers of our social media accounts might have noticed the recent switch from a certain giant of streaming video content to a paying platform. The Sensi Seeds video account was repeatedly deleted from the former, and the reasons behind this remain a mystery to this day, as no answer has been received to the multiple requests sent.
Prohibitionists strike back
More than a simple coverage problem, cannabis suffers from a freedom of speech issue. Again, the fact that cannabis-related misinformation is in a near-historic golden age should not be a revelation to anyone.
The most eminent sources are still not on the cannabis train, which is not quite a revelation either at this point in cannabis history, but it is one thing to opt for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and another to use one’s power to misinform millions of people. When the New York Times made the bold move to join the pro-cannabis movement, the most noticeable retaliation came from the White House itself. Not only did their press release discard the New York Times’ stance on legal cannabis , their own arguments defied explanation in terms of medical accuracy.
Thankfully, the red flags showing across the text of this nonsensical reaction from the U.S. government did not escape those who work on a daily basis to restore the cannabis plant to where it belongs in a civilized society.
Resorting to old tricks to keep up is a sign that prohibitionists struggle to maintain the illusion that the current policy is the only solution available.
Sensi Seeds hopes that one day, the cannabis community will be able to operate without the stigma society has, and continues to, put on its members.