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The same old story? Continuity and change in Swedish print media constructions of cannabis
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs (SoRAD).
Number of Authors: 1
2016 (English)In: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN 1458-6126, Vol. 33, no 3, 267-285 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

AIMS - The purpose of the study is to describe and analyse how cannabis is constructed in Swedish print media and if this has changed over time. Sweden is known for its prohibitionist cannabis policy, but this approach seems increasingly challenged on both international and domestic arenas. It is therefore important to see if and how this international change is mirrored and processed in a key arena such as print media. METHODS - Newspaper material from two years, 2002 and 2012, was included to analyse continuity and change. The theoretical backdrop for the study is social constructionism, and methodological concepts such as discourse and subject positions from discourse theory were used to investigate how cannabis and cannabis problems are constructed. RESULTS - The analysis showed that print media in both years seem to draw mainly on a juridical, a social problems and a medical discourse when portraying cannabis. It is through these discourses that some subject positions become relevant as users (e.g. youth) and as experts (e.g. police). Despite a strong continuity in these cannabis constructions, the analysis also shows signs of change. For example, in 2012 there are articles drawing on economic and recreational discourses, and there is a global outlook enabling new cannabis constructions. CONCLUSION - The Swedish print media generally has a crime-centred and deterrent approach towards cannabis, with prohibition at the heart of the reporting. International events do however introduce discursive alternatives in 2012. It remains to be seen if these new ways of writing about cannabis will strengthen or challenge prohibitionist constructions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 33, no 3, 267-285 p.
Keyword [en]
cannabis, media, press, Sweden, change, discourse
National Category
Substance Abuse Sociology
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-132553DOI: 10.1515/nsad-2016-0021ISI: 000379145900006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-132553DiVA: diva2:955294
Available from: 2016-08-25 Created: 2016-08-15 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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