Names matter, and in the fight over marijuana accessibility, it's one of the most visible ways advocates attempt to influence how the plant's perceived. We're conscious of this word play at the Indy, and sometimes get criticized for failing to always address Her Leafiness as "cannabis," but we'd quickly kill ourselves if we couldn't throw in an occasional "weed" or "pot" or "skunky dank-diggity."
And, of course, outside of the paper's editorial positioning, we in the newsroom have no position on the plant's success or failure one way or the other. But others have more at stake, argues Roy Kaufmann in a piece for the Medical Marijuana Business Daily, and as the push forward comes, should speak accordingly.
#2. Know your audience today and tomorrow. Millions of Americans, from suburban parents to seniors, will slowly enter the cannabis marketplace in the months and years ahead. Most of them will be familiar with language used in the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Meet them where they are. Use “frames” they understand. For example:
• If you’re a medical marijuana professional, do you have “customers” or “patients”?
• Do they “use” marijuana for some unnamed illness, or do they “take” cannabis for pain relief from glaucoma? Remember, the frames most people will bring with them are: Drug + user = addict, criminal, etc. But medicine + taker = responsible patient, reasonable adult, etc.
• Jargon and slang are handy; they’re also hindering. What does that mean? Don’t assume that the medical patients or adult-use consumers entering the marketplace will know what slang terms like “dank” or technical jargon like “endo-cannabinoid” mean. If the shared, grander goal is to remove the stigma and legitimize the industry that is cannabis, then use words your audiences will understand.
Personally, I think it's the Rastafarian vibe, "booth babes," and strains with names like Green Crack, God's Vagina and Killa Crip Kush that hurt the medical-marijauna industry's legitimacy. As it transitions into the mainstream world with a recreational vibe, though, who's to say it can't be called whatever it wants?