The representation of cannabis (also known as marijuana, marihuana, pot, or weed) in the media has evolved over time. In the past, media coverage of cannabis primarily focused on its potential harms and association with criminal activity, pervasion, and addiction. From 1980 to the early 1990s, news stories about drug busts and the dangers of smoking cannabis dominated headlines, while print media, movies, and TV shows depicted cannabis users as dangerous. In popular culture, smoking cannabis was considered a forbidden ‘rite of passage’ spoken about in whispers. This type of coverage was the norm for several years and contributed to the low prevalence of cannabis use and the stigma and criminalization of cannabis users (as shown in Figure 1).
However, with the rise of medical marijuana legalization in the early 2010s, the media shifted its narrative. Journalists started reporting on the potential benefits of cannabis for treating various medical conditions, such as chronic pain, anxiety, and epilepsy. News stories featuring medical cannabis patients and their stories became common, and documentaries exploring the science behind cannabis and its medicinal properties gained popularity.