Cannabis in TV, Films, and Digital Media What will it take to change the perception?
Green Reine Executive Producer Shawna Vercher recently sat down to be interviewed by a leading cannabis publication to explore the shifting perception of cannabis in film, TV, and other media platforms such as web series and podcasts.
From Reefer Madness to Weeds to today’s offerings, the perception of cannabis is changing. How influential are these shows and films in crafting public perception?
We cannot advance a movement without influencing pop culture’s view of that movement. There is no successful LGBTQ rights movement without Ellen taking a stand on her family-friendly sitcom, or Will & Grace bringing lovable gay characters to middle America.
There are docuseries that educate about cannabis and there are countless plot lines that begin with Timmy’s mom finding a joint in his backpack. We need to have more shows and films where the fast pace of the cannabis business is the exciting part of the action, while cannabis consumption is as ordinary as ordering a whiskey at the bar.
Which films and TV shows in modern times have been the most detrimental to the image of the cannabis community?
I happened to catch a drama series where one of the episodes centered around the star getting kidnapped so that she could (wait for it) provide medical care to a “marijuana drug dealer” at gunpoint.
Taking all of the improbability and cheesiness of that aside for a minute, this idea that cannabis farmers and distributors are part of a shady cartel is as dangerous for the industry as it is ludicrous. It makes conversations about legalization difficult to have with concerned voters. It places a medical plant in the same conversation as cocaine or heroin.
As focused as we are on educating legislators, it would be great if we could have a bit of an education process with a few Hollywood writers’ rooms as well.
“We need to have more shows and films where the fast pace of the cannabis business is the exciting part of the action, while cannabis consumption is as ordinary as ordering a whiskey at the bar.”
Which films and TV shows in modern times have been the most beneficial to the image of the cannabis community?
If we want to positively shift the view of cannabis we have to stop exploiting and sensationalizing its use and, instead, normalize it. Having a strong character in a show or movie who happens to smoke weed is powerful.
Lily Tomlin’s character on Grace & Frankie unapologetically uses cannabis and hilariously compares it to Jane Fonda’s martini drinking. That’s what we need – to advance the conversation in an approachable and relatable way.
What other forms of new media best showcase the true cannabis community?
Business and health-related webinars and podcasts are providing more than just useful content. These types of conversations combat the stereotype of who is in the cannabis industry and just how “normal” we are compared to any other industry. There are attorneys, nurses, entrepreneurs, farmers, chemists, and accountants in this business just like there are in any other community.
The more we penetrate social and web-based media with business and health information, the more we shift the focus away from sensationalizing our community.
Who do you recommend people follow?
Though I adore and appreciate the celebrities and public figures who embrace cannabis, I recommend people follow the business leaders and activists doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes. I can learn from the people who are managing to have record growth of a business they started from nothing regardless of what I do for a living. We can be inspired to action by advocates for fair banking, safe working conditions, and diversity, even when we feel like their specific issues don’t impact us personally.
Where will cannabis consumption end up in film and TV?
An important point about the desire for change is that it will not happen unless we make it happen. The military funds shows and films to ensure that young men and women are inspired to enlist. Diversity groups lobby entertainment companies for more inclusive programming.
We have to be organized and relentless to demand that cannabis is portrayed in a way that helps our industry and the people who built that industry… including the thousands of men and women – disproportionately people of color – who were incarcerated for doing exactly what investment firms are celebrating right now.
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Executive Producer, Green Reine (Reine Media)
Shawna Presley Vercher is an award-winning political media strategist and social justice advocate. She is a widely-acclaimed speaker, recognized for powerfully advancing the conversation on a number of humanitarian issues. Her Top 25 book, A Fearless Voice: How a National Scandal Made Me an Advocate for Building a Better America, has been renowned as an honest and heartbreaking look at our unjust institutions and how we can work together as Americans to improve them.
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