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Protecting Prohibition: the Role of Swedish Information Symposia in Keeping Cannabis a High-Profile Problem
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2015 (English)In: Contemporary Drug Problems, ISSN 0091-4509, E-ISSN 2163-1808, Vol. 42, no 3, 209-225 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During recent years, political discussions about how to deal with cannabis use have become increasingly centered on harm reduction and liberalization in large parts of the Western world. In Sweden, however, no such re-framing of the issue has occurred. There has been political status quo with emphasis on prohibition and zero tolerance. This study aims to elucidate how the cannabis policy discourse in Sweden is characterized today to legitimize restrictive drug policy and counter global changes. Two symposia dedicated to dissemination of cannabis information in Sweden were analyzed to understand how policy players, service providers, and other professionals invited to speak at these events argue to maintain cannabis use a high-profile societal problem that necessitates prohibition. With the help of Carol Bacchi’s theoretical approach “What’s the Problem Represented to be,” we critically analyzed how cannabis is constructed in the material. This meant focusing on what policy and service provision that is described as meaningful and effective as a way to understand what the problem of cannabis is represented to be. Our analysis showed, among other things, that cannabis-positive attitudes are seen as utterly problematic, that youth users are portrayed as extremely vulnerable, and that current government responses are perceived as righteous and compassionate. It also showed how speakers at symposia construct a morally upright “us” who promote “reliable” scientific evidence about the dangers of cannabis. In this way, the choice between keeping prohibition and trying liberalization stands out as one between letting reliable or unreliable research guide drug policy. We conclude that youth becomes a perfect category to rationalize current problematizations; a vessel that may carry and protect drug prohibition in a globalized world where cannabis is increasingly handled like an ordinary commodity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 42, no 3, 209-225 p.
Keyword [en]
cannabis policy, problematization, youth, Sweden, Carol Bacchi, discourse analysis
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-122479DOI: 10.1177/0091450915599348OAI: diva2:866542
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2006-1523
Available from: 2015-11-03 Created: 2015-11-03 Last updated: 2015-12-01Bibliographically approved

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Månsson, JosefinEkendahl, Mats
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Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD)Department of Social Work
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