Marijuana industry fights ‘stoner,’ ‘pot’ and other words that stigmatizes people

MedMen, which operates retail marijuana stores in California, Nevada and New York, has been running a campaign that asks people to stop using the word “stoner” to stereotype people. ((AP Photo/Chris Pizzello))

There’s a badge on her uniform, possibly a gun on her hip, and her arms are spread a little, suggesting she’s ready for anything.

You might think that you’re looking at a police officer walking a beat.

But what you’ve seen on billboards and, more recently, the internet is an effort by MedMen Enterprises of Culver City to remind you that marijuana users come from all walks of life. They can be cops, nurses, teachers, scientists, construction foremen and grandmothers.

All these people appear in MedMen ads that also feature the word “stoner” with a line drawn through it. As in, let’s get rid of this.

“That word can be used to negatively stereotype people,” said Daniel Yi, senior vice president of communications at MedMen, which operates 14 retail pot stores, including one in San Diego. “We want to take that stigma away. We want to make marijuana mainstream.”

MedMen’s $2-million “Forget Stoner” advertising campaign made its debut earlier this year and is part of a larger push by the cannabis industry to normalize the use of marijuana.

MedMen says in its ads that people from all walks of life use marijuana, and that using the word stoner can cast them in a bad light. Actors were used for the ads.

Some retailers have asked media outlets to stop using the world “pot” because they think it carries a negative image — one that can dampen sales.

Other companies, such as San Diego’s Kb Pure Essentials, partly avoid such issues by marketing cannabis-based health and wellness products — items such as oils and salves that customers use to treat sleep problems, stress and inflammation.

The products, which haven’t been evaluated by the government, contain CBD, a compound in cannabis that doesn’t get a person high.

“It’s legal now,” said Brooke Brun, the company’s cofounder. “People don’t feel so bad about asking for it, or being seen at a CBD booth.”

The marijuana market has opened up since Jan. 1, when licensed retailers began selling recreational cannabis throughout California. And more growth is expected.

“The negative prophecies didn’t come true,” said Dallin Young, executive director of the Assn. of Cannabis Professionals in San Diego. “California hasn’t turned into some ‘Mad Max’ world.”

But there’s still a stigma attached to marijuana. And it was apparent this month when Elon Musk, the controversial chief executive officer of Tesla, smoked weed on an entertainment program broadcast live on YouTube.

The company’s stock fell the following day, a drop also affected by other issues at Tesla.

Musk also consumed alcohol during the program, which drew little notice.

Yi has seen this kind of thing before and believes the public doesn’t treat the two substances equally, even though both are legal in California.

“The Stephen Colbert show (on CBS) does this thing where Colbert takes shots of tequila with some of his guests,” Yi said. “That doesn’t show up on the front page of the L.A. Times.

“But Musk smokes one blunt on “The Joe Rogan Experience” and it gets lots of press coverage. Alcohol is acceptable, marijuana isn’t.

“Overall, cannabis is much healthier than alcohol,” Yi said. “But it is a free country. If you want to use to socialize, great. Just do it responsibly.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune got mixed responses to MedMen’s push to discourage people from using the word stoner, and to the kind of thinking expressed by Yi.

“The alcohol industry has for eons shown advertisements of imbibers in all professions appearing to lead normal, healthy lives,” Don Paret of San Diego said.

“Why (shouldn’t) the pot industry do the same? MedMen’s attempt to create a more legitimate image of pot users is no different than the alcohol industry portraying a similar image.”

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Gary Robbins on Los Angeles Times

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Published: September 17, 2018

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