How is Marijuana Portrayed in Media Throughout the Years?

Over the past 100 years, the attitude towards marijuana has shifted, along with the media portrayal of the drug. Earlier films were propaganda to warn against the dangers of the drug, feeding into the fears of American citizens. The major shift began in the late 60s and early 70s as the legalization movement began. This caused people to become desensitized to the drug and made them see it as a recreational alternate to alcohol rather than a dangerous drug that causes violence.

The 1970s was the first decade where cannabis was portrayed in films released each year. The 80s had even more films including cannabis, as did the 90s. When the 2000s came around, the attitude towards marijuana became increasingly negative. During this time, the number of films portraying the drug decreased.


Less than half of the films portrayed marijuana in a positive light. More than half of the films, however, realistically portrayed the drug.

Regardless of whether a film shows the drug negatively or positively, flaws can still be made. Whether it was the negative portrayal in Reefer Madness which made people fear the drug would cause terrible crimes, or if it was That 70s Show which on occasion showed the drug as having similar effects to LSD, there is still room for error.



Marijuana laws have been and will continue to be a hot debate and people on both sides of the spectrum will try to use media to get people to share their views, regardless of it’s accuracy.