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A dawning demand for a new cannabis policy: A study of Swedish online drug discussions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
2014 (English)In: International journal on drug policy, ISSN 0955-3959, E-ISSN 1873-4758, Vol. 25, no 4, 673-681 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: This study examines how online discussions on drug policy are formulating an oppositional cannabis discourse in an otherwise prohibitionist country like Sweden. The focus of the paper is to identify demands for an alternative cannabis policy as well as analysing how these demands are linked to governance. Methods: The empirical material is 56 discussion-threads from the online message-board Flashback Forum that were active during the first eight months of 2012. Discourse theory was used to locate the discourse, and governmentality theory was used to locate the political belonging of the discourse. Results: On Flashback Forum demands for a new cannabis policy are articulated in opposition to Swedish prohibitionist discourse. The oppositional discourse is constructed around the nodal points cannabis, harm, state and freedom that fill legalisation/decriminalisation/liberalisation with meaning. The nodal points are surrounded by policy demands that get their meaning through the particular nodal. These demands originate from neo-liberal and welfarist political rationalities. Neo-liberal and welfarist demands are mixed, and participants are simultaneously asking for state and individual approaches to handle the cannabis issue. Conclusion: Swedish online discourse on cannabis widens the scope beyond the confines of drug policy to broader demands such as social justice, individual choice and increased welfare. These demands are not essentially linked together and many are politically contradictory. This is also significant for the discourse; it is not hegemonised by a political ideology. The discourse is negotiated between the neo-liberal version of an alternative policy demanding individual freedom, and the welfarist version demanding social responsibility. This implies the influence of the heritage from the social-democratic discourse, centred on state responsibility, which have been dominating Swedish politics in modern times. Consequently, this study refutes that the demand for a new cannabis policy is strictly neo-liberal.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 25, no 4, 673-681 p.
Keyword [en]
Cannabis, Internet, Discourse, Governmentality, Neo-liberal, Welfarist
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-108002DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.04.001ISI: 000341482600004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-108002DiVA: diva2:752908
Note

AuthorCount:1;

Available from: 2014-10-06 Created: 2014-10-06 Last updated: 2017-04-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Cannabis discourses in contemporary Sweden: Continuity and change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cannabis discourses in contemporary Sweden: Continuity and change
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to study how cannabis is constructed in contemporary Sweden, which policy responses are promoted as rational, and how international cannabis trends are received in this context. The four papers are the result of analyzing empirical material from three different sub-studies: 1) a qualitative study of online discussions about cannabis and drug policy, 2) a qualitative and comparative study of print media articles from 2002 and 2012, and 3) a qualitative study of oral presentations from cannabis information symposia. All papers are based on a social constructionist approach.

A point of departure is that attitudes and regulations on cannabis have changed in large parts of the Western world. In Sweden, however, strict prohibition of cannabis is still central in the national drug laws. Some of the main findings can thus be gathered in discussions on continuity and change. In Swedish online discussions, there seems to be a strong desire to change the national cannabis policy in line with international developments. This discussion propagates alternative views on cannabis, in which comparisons to alcohol become vital and more liberal cannabis policies become logical. These discussions are also characterized by continuity, as many arguments for liberal cannabis policies seem to be based on traditional social democratic values and prohibitionist “scaremongering” arguments. Continuity is also what seems to characterize traditional print media, where cannabis is generally portrayed as a potent and illegal drug producing social problems. However, this arena also shows signs of change, as the material from 2012 includes stories on cannabis as an economic asset as well as a recreational substance. Both traditional print media and cannabis information symposia focus on youth consumers, who are seen as particularly vulnerable to cannabis effects. Such constructions seem important for protecting prohibition from international influences and for a continuous discourse centered on the dangers of cannabis.

It is concluded that cannabis appears to be able to represent almost anything. As such it can be “used” for any purpose to promote a whole set of ideas related to policy often based on what is considered as scientific evidence. Depending on the context, it thus seems possible that cannabis is medicinal, recreational, harmful, and addictive. If so, and if all of these constructions are in some way “real,” then it is suggested that cannabis necessitates a much more tailored and nuanced response than that which prohibition can offer.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Social Work, Stockholm University, 2017. 95 p.
Series
Stockholm studies in social work, ISSN 0281-2851 ; 35Dissertations at the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD), 17
Keyword
cannabis, Sweden, discourse, social construction, prohibition, legalization, de-criminalization, internet, online, media, professional, symposia
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140931 (URN)978-91-7649-750-0 (ISBN)978-91-7649-751-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-05-24, Aula Svea, Socialhögskolan, Sveavägen 160, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-04-28 Created: 2017-04-03 Last updated: 2017-04-21Bibliographically approved

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