Can more realistic — maybe even mundane — pictures of people smoking pot make voters more likely to support changing drug laws? One policy reform group thinks so, and it has assembled an amazing collection of stock photos to help. There will certainly be plentiful news coverage of American drug use on 4/20, and the Drug Policy Alliance has made a new series of photographs available for free on its website to lend to the cause. "Media outlets continue to use stereotypical 'stoner' images for otherwise serious news stories about marijuana. The Drug Policy Alliance is offering an alternative: stock photos of real, everyday people who use marijuana," the Alliance said on its website. It's a good point: How often do you see a story about a medical marijuana bill accompanied by a picture of grow-house shelves stacked with weed, or of a disembodied hand holding a roach clip? At best, maybe you've seen an image of an ailing old woman smoking pot medicinally.
"The national conversation is changing, but the images are remaining the same," Sharda Sekaran, the DPA's deputy manager of communications told us. "We wanted more accurate, more humanizing images of people using marijuana."
From a young woman on her porch to a couple making dinner to a clean-cut, middle-aged man strumming a guitar, the pictures aim to help better reflect the reality of pot today: Despite federal prohibitions, it is widely used by Americans of all ages, races, and genders. Recreational use is legal in four states and Washington, D.C. Last fall, one survey showed that a majority of Americans support legalizing pot, and that people between the ages of 25 and 34 are most likely to support it. A 2014 Pew poll found that two-thirds of millennials support legalization, and that number is growing.
It's also not an accident that so many of these pictures feature upbeat-looking women: Women are still less likely to support legalization, although the gap seems to be narrowing. "We were expecting it to be a little harder to find women, because of the stigma that still exists and how women are held to criticism and judgment, but we had a really great response among women," Sekaran said.
It was much more difficult to achieve racial diversity in the series, which isn't surprising considering Black pot users are four times as likely as whites to be arrested despite using marijuana at equal rates. As Sekaran put it, "the brunt of potential repercussions is on Black and brown people, so it's not surprising that it was harder to recruit models [from this group]." Next, the organization will be providing B-roll footage for use on television, which Sekaran says will be shot in Portland.