Legal marijuana has changed the way people think about cannabis, leading to a shift in the way in which it’s marketed. A new study demonstrates the ways in which cannabis is promoted on social media apps, and how this has opened up the market to include people who don’t fit the typical stoner stereotype.
The study, published in Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal, found that women have slowly introduced themselves into the equation, disrupting what’s traditionally thought of as a cannabis consumer. These women promote cannabis in different ways, incorporating it into their daily lives and activities.
Researchers used Instagram as their social media platform of choice, analyzing illegal sellers in Switzerland with “cannabis influencers” in the U.S., and spotting their differences. Researchers found that cannabis influencers were challenging what has long been considered appealing to cannabis markets, something that could have a global impact.
“Our findings show that cannabis influencers on Instagram are changing the stereotypical characteristics of illegal cannabis culture as being almost entirely dominated by men, to one where cannabis is represented as a desirable accessory in certain feminine lifestyles,” write the study’s researchers. These influencers painted cannabis as an activity that can be pursued by mothers, people who are invested in their physical and mental health, and more.
Study authors recognize how cannabis influencers have had to get creative on platforms like Instagram considering how the app prevents its sale and censors its content. In their posts, influencers make it clear that they’re not selling cannabis and are simply endorsing it, tying it to appealing images and to a lifestyle that other people are interested in replicating.
“When cannabis is marketed by legal influencers rather than illegal dealers, we find a shift in the use of symbols related to amateurism versus professionalism, intimacy and lifestyle and argue that these changes are bound up with how the influencers do gender differently than sellers,” explain the researchers (via Marijuana Moment).
Marijuana use has evolved over the years, becoming less of a taboo topic and something that can be discussed and consumed openly. In places where the drug is legal, it makes sense then that social media users promote it as something that’s just another activity to partake in.