Until recently, when one looked up anything to do with marijuana, there was usually a certain type of image that popped up: young, unkempt, unenthusiastic, and unemployed. One woman wanted to change that. Managing director of communications at the Drug Policy Alliance, Sharda Sekaran, says, "There's still a major bias on who the marijuana user might be. They don’t always look like the guy from 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Industry participants and activists like Sekaran think that the media representation of smokers we see in film and on T.V. doesn’t represent the actual people engaging in the practice. Considering there are about 2.5 million legal smokers, this is most likely the case. To that end, they have started to use stock photography to change the narrative.
Acquaintances were asked to pose with a professional photographer to create a new set of images. They are free for use so long as credit is given, for commercial and editorial purposes. The current primary stock photo results are usually men smoking on unappealing joints, and this may be hurting the industry says Mike Ray, director of Bloom Farms, located in San Francisco.
In an interview with Tech Insider, Ray says, “The over-the-top sexualization of women along [with] the reinforcement of the 'stoner' stereotypes is so undercooked and poorly thought out that it turns most of the mature and responsible demographic away immediately."
Sekaran needed to hire outside models for a shoot in Colorado because no people of color volunteered. Not surprising as PoC are four times more likely to be arrested for pot possession, "Even though there's so much changing around public opinion on marijuana ... there are still consequences in states where it's still criminalized. People can lose their jobs, lose their kids.”
With marijuana being the third most used substance behind alcohol and tobacco, maybe new pictures will be worth thousands of new words.
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