Dear media, please stop with the weed puns already. They are very stigmatizing and make serious topics risible.
Don’t get us wrong. At High Times, we love to see how many mainstream journalists and reporters, how many websites and magazines, are getting aboard the cannabis train and providing serious coverage. There’s a lot going on, and the more attention we get, the better.
But we need the right kind of attention. This is not a novelty act, nor is it a laughing matter.
Some of the leading cannabis industry analytics firms like New Frontier Data anticipate that annual marijuana sales in the U.S. will stand around $24 billion by 2025. While projections vary and other analysts expect somewhat different figures, one thing is clear: cannabis is an indisputably significant economic driver.
Overcoming The ‘Giggle Factor’
With such a large economic impact, we need is a type of interest, of awareness, that can help convince people legalization matters so their hearts get in the fight. Not to get high, but for relief. A belief that there’s a leaf that can help millions ease their grief – sorry Lin-Manuel Miranda, we could not help but borrow a little bit of your Puerto Rican ritmo to prove one can be funny, or at least ingenious, without falling back on tired, stigmatizing stereotypes.
Now, in our humble opinion, too many media outlets, thought leaders and opinion formers, cannot avoid what cannabis reporter Debra Borchardt described in a recent conversation as the “giggle factor.” What this means is that, while most writers and media outlets (and people in general) are aware of the implications and the importance of cannabis legalization, they still find the topic a bit amusing, a bit funny, a bit pun-worthy. After all, “it’s just weed we’re talking about,” we’ve heard far too many times from friends, family, journalists, editors and even industry insiders.
Yes, it’s weed. But it’s also medicine; it’s a huge new basis of taxation; it’s a job creator; it’s a racial and gender equality Wonder Woman—or any other superhero of your liking.
It’s a lot more than “just weed.”
A Complex Issue
This is a complex issue, for sure. On the one hand, treating cannabis as “just weed” can help combat hysteria around its perils, and even evidence how cannabis-related offenses are very different from any other crime.
“When it comes to any other crime, like murder, rape, assault or theft, nobody jokes about that,” Cannabis Culture’s Jodie Emery explains. “Nobody’s on the news saying things like, ‘a woman was found stabbed to death; they say her boyfriend, the alleged perpetrator, really stuck it to her last night.’”
An interviewee that asked to remain anonymous agrees: “It’s completely inappropriate.”
“But when it comes to people being arrested for marijuana, people joke about it. And this should help get rid of the whole criminal stigma,” Emery adds. So, maybe, a joke or pun, once in a while, may be warranted to loosen things up.
On the other hand, however, treating cannabis as “just weed” and joking about it using weed puns keeps the stigma in place and validates senseless arguments, like Jeff Sessions’ claim about “good people” not consuming pot. Meanwhile, patients are suffering, people are getting killed, and money is leaving the country and going to cartels and drug traffickers.
“If we laugh about it too much, the massive civil liberties crisis still going on is not taken seriously enough,” Emery acknowledges.
Down a similar line, Cynthia Salarizadeh, Founder of AxisWire and Managing Partner of KCSA Strategic Communications argues that “The industry is reaching maturity; we are sitting at the big boy’s table already. So, it’s time for the media to be mature about it too.”
“The problem is that a large portion of the editorial base covering cannabis news does not feel the industry deserves the kind of respect that the industry itself thinks it deserves,” Green Market Report CEO Debra Borchardt supplements.
“How we present the cannabis industry and plant to the public is probably the most important thing right now,” former NFL player and Super Bowl champion Marvin Washington said in a chat a couple of months ago.
A Focus On Education
When it comes to serious issues related to cannabis, we need to educate the public, not amuse them.
“We want to show the people that we are using cannabis responsibly, medicating with it. This will change the narrative around the plant,” Washington added.
Leave the fun to Cheech and Chong; they know how to pull it off. The excessive pun use, conversely, has become old and boring—like an Attorney General we all know.
We mean, we get it already:
- You just can’t stop making reefer-ences.
- And you want to be really blunt.
- Cannabis businesses are growing like weeds.
- This is a budding industry.
- It’s high times for cannabis stocks.
- It’s also high time we legalize weed.
- Arguments against legalization are going up in smoke.
- Expectation around California going rec was high.
- Pharma, tobacco and alcohol companies might get smoked.
- Dunkin’ Donuts sounds a lot like Dank N’ Donuts.
- A bunch of new products are in the pipe-line.
- THC makes you think of KFC.
- The Colorado market is smokin’ hot.
- Joint ventures or efforts compel you to “intend the pun.”
- There’s a lot of buzz around cannabis-related topics.
- Oregon, Washington and Colorado blazed the trail.
- The market is still green.
- It’s hard to weed out the bad companies.
- Mary Jane was also Spiderman’s girlfriend.
- So, all Hail Mary (Jane).
- People Mari-juana see pot legalized.
- Few can roll with the long-time advocates.
- Pioneers planted the seeds that entrepreneurs are harvesting today.
- Illegality can put a strain on state budgets.
- Surging regulations bring growing pains to cannabis businesses.
- People think there’s a pot of gold at the end of the “weed rainbow.”
- Your parents are not ganja believe this or that.
- A certain event marked the Big Bong for cannabis legalization.
- Some trade secrets are kept hash-hash.
- And Hash-tags on Insta-gram are just funny on their own.
- What’s going on with weed in Canada or Uruguay is dope.
- People can get kushy jobs in the cannabis industry.
- Your article is a puff piece.
- Seattle is no longer Smokeless.
- But New York is still a buzz kill.
It’s not that these puns are not funny—although, in our view, most of them no longer are. It’s not even that you should never use them. The problem is that many writers tend to cram as many as possible into each article. Each sub-heading, each image footer, each title, is a pun. And they shouldn’t be! Not all of them!
A Mea Culpa
Marijuana legalization is not just about getting high and having fun in the sun, or about chillin’ to Bob Marley’s Rebel Music album.
Cannabis legalization is also about social justice; it’s about helping millions of patients; it’s about narrowing gender inequality and wage gaps; it’s about ending with decades of racial profiling and criminalization of minorities; it’s about saving the government the billions of dollars per year it currently spends in prosecuting non-criminal cannabis consumers and producers; it’s about tapping into a pre-existing market and turning it into a new basis of taxation that could help us build schools or address the opioid epidemic; it’s about reducing drug-related violence…
You get it: weed legalization is an important issue.
But beware, this article does not seek to scold writers or dwell on the past. All it wants is to educate for the future.
But we, at High Times, have learned a lot since, and want to share our conclusions with everyone. So, here’s our proposal:
You want to be funny? Get creative!
If you can’t think of anything funny to say without resorting to these tired, stereotypical puns, then you’re likely better off not trying to be funny. Maybe you’re more of a serious writer.
Welcome, everyone, to the cannabis industry. It’s a fun industry to work in; it’s a fun topic to write about; it’s a fun issue to discuss. But remember, cannabis is already interesting and fun enough. There’s no need to make it funny; not everything has to be.