How the Media is the Driving Force Behind Society’s Notion of Cannabis

Written by Christopher J. O’Brien.

Erin Goodwin Project Claudia Raid

(Image: Erin Goodwin / Courtesy of: Erin Goodwin/The Toronto Star)

“During my time at school, the major stories we covered from 2013 until 2017 included the Rob Ford crack scandal, the Canadian medical cannabis revolution, ISIS terrorist threats, and the U.S. federal election. I’ve gained great sources in relation to most of these topics and feel like I could have chosen any of them as my choice. As per my knowledge of these topics, the best fit and most appropriate for me would be to study the Canadian cannabis revolution.” – Author.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: How yellow journalism dictates ‘marijuana’ legislation

Part 2: Reporting project Claudia, the Montreal raids, and project gator

Part 3: Questions posed to Canadian cannabis activists

Part 4: Links to previously published and related stories by author


Part 1: How yellow journalism dictates ‘marijuana’ legislation

Yellow journalism (noun).
Journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.
“Equating murder and dismemberment with smoking pot is the worst yellow journalism.” According to Google, this is literally the definition of yellow journalism.
Yellow journalism dictates ‘marijuana’ legislation.

The term ‘yellow journalism’ was coined at the turn of the century to describe William Randolph Hearst’s (an early 1900’s American newspaper publisher who built the nation’s largest newspaper chain) rewarding attempt at using his ownership of several newspapers to push society into a war-frenzy so that the U.S. could expand their colonies in the pacific. Both Hearst in the U.S. and Emily Murphy in Canada used parental anxieties surrounding teen drug use to make cannabis, a.k.a. ‘marijuana’ (a Mexican slang term) illegal, using much the very same type of hype and propaganda. In fact, the very same myths they used then are being brought out today to keep cannabis, and cannabis-related products illegal.

Drug prohibition (the race war) arose in Canada just after the ‘yellow press era,’ and whether during or after (and by coincidence or not), cannabis (and it’s ingredients) was added to the ‘confidential restricted list’ in 1923 under the ‘Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill.‘ Cannabis began to attract negative attention during the 1930’s and by 1937 the first major Canadian drug seizure was made in relation to cannabis. The Canadian federal government has since stigmatized cannabis and cannabis users as being dangerous, harmful to their own health, and/ or of the criminal intent.

The fact of the matter is between 1946 and 1961 only 2% of all drug arrests made in Canada were cannabis related charges. On a national, and considerable fifteen-year scale… This is a very small amount.

Since the 1960’s, various activists and advocates have taken up the Canadian fight for cannabis legalization. More recently and among many others these people include the likes of Marc and Jodie Emery, Chris and Erin Goodwin, Britney Guerra, Dana Larsen, Tracy Curley, and Jamie McConnell.

Marc Emery is known as ‘the Prince of Pot.’ In 2009 he was jailed for five years in the U.S. for selling seeds across the American border. He founded the late Cannabis Culture Magazine, and from October 2016 until March 2017 operated the late Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture Lounge and Dispensary on Church Street in Toronto. As the result of various charges stemming from his recent arrest at Toronto Pearson International Airport, both Marc and his wife Jodie were charged, and thus legally forced to give up, dissolve, and disband from their organization.

Jodie Emery is a well-known cannabis activist with a history of public speaking, and politics. She is the previous editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and previous co-owner of Cannabis Culture retail stores across Canada. Together, and to this day Marc and Jodie oppose lawmakers, and law enforcers both alike.

It all began when Hearst first demonized cannabis which he made clear to call ‘marijuana’ (a Mexican slang term) at the time. Hearst’s ‘cheap’ paper-based news empire was rapidly growing, and he felt threatened to see hemp rising as a new and opposing multi-use product. He used his papers as the median to advocate the alleged harmfulness, and risks associated with the ‘poison’ as he called it, and eventually this lead to it’s prohibition, and negative stigma towards the plant which still exists today.

One indication of the impact of these articles is a 1937 resolution of a narcotics conference of lawyers, judges, and civic leaders commending William Randolph Hearst and his newspapers at the time for ‘pioneering the national fight against dope.’

This wasn’t the first time Hearst manipulated the media to create havoc throughout the world… In 1898, Hearst’s New York Journal published propaganda headlines that framed Spain as the guilty party in the bombing of a U.S. warship. These headlines were able to sway public opinion and eventually led to the Spanish-American War in Cuba.

Hearst also used the string of newspapers he owned to promote policies which would allow for his timber (paper) investments to flourish. Today, the owners of large media corporations use their power to support policies that allow the investments of major advertisers to flourish. To quote Jack Herer (now also a popular high-end cannabis strain), “It must be remembered that many of the largest publishers have direct holdings in timberland for paper development, and the pharmaceutical drug, petrochemical companies, etc. are among the media’s major advertisers.”

It was a misinformation campaign that made ‘marijuana’ illegal, and it is a re-education campaign that is freeing cannabis today. #FreeTheWeed

In today’s scientific findings, cannabis research has confirmed and expanded upon previous findings of the drug’s therapeutic effects. Cannabis has become known for its ability to assist with anxiety and pain and provides symptom relief for a variety other ailments. It is also well-known to suppress the growth of certain cancer cells, assist the body with AIDS, and helps with other select neurological conditions. But this was not always common knowledge… In fact, the public of the past had a propaganda-tainted view of ‘marijuana,’ and as they didn’t know the truth, they didn’t know NOT to believe it.

The early 1936 American exploit film, Reefer Madness, is an outrageous look at the fictitious depravity and insanity of a ‘marijuana’ user’s mind. Today, we know this now historic film to be forced propaganda. Reefer Madness featured such negative tropes as: drug dealing, luring unsuspecting teens into addiction, drug-crazed murder and the rape of young women, young boys getting into trouble with the law, and hatred for popular ‘new age’ jazz music.

Though this twisted look at a marijuana user’s seemingly degenerate life fostered public concerns, it also eventually became common knowledge as a cult classic of rampant propaganda. Yet sadly, this flick is not far off from what the Canadian government seems to be “pushing” upon the public: I.e. Hysteria. Health Canada recently aired a brief ad of caution against the drug featuring an image of a decaying brain — which is meant to raise health concerns by way of a “marijuana diminishes IQ and rottes the brain” claim. Though the Canadian government seems eager to maintain the destructive image of marijuana, both research and history beg to contradict our modern day fears.

Canadian ‘Reefer Madness’ or misinformed, old fashioned, stubborn thinking is a symptom of the Canadian government and is NOT forward-thinking!

We are told by the federal government that recreational pot will be legal tomorrow, but we are (supposed) to keep enforcing that failed criminalization model today,” Toronto Councillor Joe Cressy said during an interview. “The challenge that city halls – in towns and cities right across the country – are facing is there is no overarching public health framework to deal with this today.

There have been many widely known cannabis activists throughout the past few decades, though none as widely known or a popular as the Canadian ‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery. Between him and his wife Jodie Emery, multiple Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture brand dispensaries popped up, proved their success, and closed down all across the country.

“You know it’s all one thing at a time in this kind of environment where you’re having to negotiate with what happens legally. If you’re going to go and raid people who are selling medical, what’s the purpose, why sell medical? Why not sell to everybody then… Because if there is nothing sacrosanct about medical then the punishment couldn’t be worse than if we sold it for recreational right? I feel that that’s the only proper way in legalization that it would look,” said Marc Emery. “You sell to whoever comes into your business who’s eighteen, and a human being. We know marijuana is safe; it’s not our business to know what they are doing. Maybe they are treating their cancer, maybe they are watching their favourite show, maybe they are having sex, and it’s not our business. Dispensaries are just here to sell it, and to help you.”

Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture celebrated it’s Toronto grand opening May 27 on Queen Street West, one day after the ‘Project Claudia’ raids. Since then, many other prominent locations have opened, though been forced to close. Emery himself was the owner of Toronto’s famous downtown 461 Church Street location (to include part-owners Chris and Erin Goodwin). Approximately 2000 customers visited the store daily which amounted to an income of over $50,000 per day.

Both Marc and Jodie Emery feel that people who use and need cannabis should not have to harass their doctors, fake a doctor’s note, or get arrested by police for possession of pot. In their fight for freedom in a retail/recreational environment, and as part of their most recent bail hearing agreement, all Cannabis Culture dispensaries have now been forced to close, indefinitely.

Dana Larsen is a Canadian cannabis activist and previous Canadian politician. He has published multiple books on cannabis, founded OverGrow Canada where he gave away 2 million seeds across the country, and for years was the previous editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine.

“I gave away seeds across the country, and it really went beyond my wildest dreams,” said Larson in late October, 2016. “You know… While on my tour, getting arrested in Calgary, it was actually the best thing that could have happened. It really helped get so much media attention, it drew a lot of awareness, and it really helped us surpass our target. We all just basically had a lot of fun.”

Larsen has recently been touring Canada as part of his OverGrow Canada 2017: 5 million cannabis seed giveaway tour.

“In the U.S. things seem bad for the cannabis culture. The Bush administration continues a massive anti-pot propaganda campaign, the number of pot prisoners is rising, and state ballot initiatives to liberalize drug laws all failed in 2002,” said Larsen (written in the editor’s column of an old Cannabis Culture Magazine).

“Let us end cannabis prohibition now, in our time, so that we do not pass this futile war down to our children, and grandchildren the way it has been passed down to us. What will YOU do to help end this war?”


Part 2: Reporting project Claudia, the Montreal raids, and project gator

Project Claudia:

As part of a city wide police raid named ‘Project Claudia’, swarms of Toronto police officers executed a series of search warrants at storefront cannabis dispensaries on May 26, 2016. A total of 90 people were arrested while 186 trafficking charges were laid. Immediately, project Claudia became the largest story of it’s kind in Canadian history, and the largest story of it’s kind ever recorded by Canadian media.

Project Claudia Toronto Police Services Press Conference

(Image: Seized cannabis products from project Claudia / Courtesy of:

Montreal Raids:

The Montreal cannabis dispensary raids targeting the grand opening of Cannabis Culture branded dispensaries took place across the city of Montreal on the morning of December 16, 2016. Representatives for the brand included owners Marc and Jodie Emery, Chris and Erin Goodwin, and others. As a result of these raids, authorities seized 18-kilograms of cannabis and an undisclosed amount of cash and related equipment. The story was so well publicized in the news that national news organizations were covering the story before the raid had even begun.

Marc Emery Jodie Emery Montreal Raids Cannabis Culture Weed Shop

(Image: Marc Emery in Montreal / Courtesy of:

Project Gator:

Project Gator was carried out by the Toronto Police Service targeting illegal medical and recreational dispensaries on the morning of March 9, 2017. Simultaneous warrants were executed at various Cannabis Culture branded locations across Toronto, Hamilton, even as far as Vancouver. As a result of these raids, multiple charges were laid against known cannabis activists Marc and Jodie Emery, Chris and Erin Goodwin, and Britney Guerra.

Below is the detailed Toronto Police Service – News Release in regards to charges…

A few members of Toronto’s media were granted access inside Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture Lounge and Dispensary – 461 Church Street after the raid to capture photographs and shoot video of what had transpired. Project gator is currently an ongoing police investigation and covered extensively by the majority of Toronto’s prominent media.

Below is a gallery of inside 461 Church Street following the first wave of project gator raids…

Fuck Project Gator Cannabis Culture Weed shop Dispensary

(Image: #FuckProjectGator window sign / Courtesy of: Village Cannabis Dispensary)

Published Storify by author (Attachment):

Below is a chronological timeline of: project Claudia, the Montreal raids, and project gator…


Part 3: Questions posed to Canadian cannabis activists

Question posed to Tracy Curley; Cannabis Activist – Thur, Feb. 16, 2017

Do you think the media is the driving force behind society’s notion of cannabis? If so, why?

“I think the media is certainly a dominant influence on the whole issue of reefer madness. So many examples… Typically 420 coverage includes a big smoke cloud or the biggest joint… Almost never is there coverage of the actual issue of legalization or medical marijuana. I realized a long time ago if I wanted to influence the message I needed to create a visual… That’s how Toronto’s Budbabes, Pot Pixies and even Weed Woman were all born,” said Curley, who then added…

“Even now with the dispensary raids (project Claudia) and robberies the media is being a bit savage. Talking about the dangers involved, Etc., but very little coverage is covering the other side of the issue… For example, dispensaries have been vilified for not testing their products. Just a few weeks ago we found out that legal producers who have vilified those dispensaries in the media don’t test either… Yet they were allowed to outright lie in the media without checks or balances.”

“I think this is a problem with all media these days… Sensationalism sells… Fake news reigns… There are some news agencies I outright refuse to talk to as I know the story will be biased, sensationalized or just poorly researched and written (a.k.a. Vice),” said Curley.

Tracy Curley Weed Activist Toronto

(Image: Tracy Curley / Courtesy of: Tracy Curley)

Question posed to Jamie McConnell; Cannabis Activist – Mar. 14, 2017

Do you think the media is the driving force behind society’s notion of cannabis? If so, why?

“The media sways public opinion on every subject, but every smart person has to look at the source. Look at Fox News to CNN… You know what I mean? You have to look at who is giving the news, and why? Some newspapers are conservatives and some are democratic, but you have to know the source, and then you can determine what the take is. So it just depends on the media, any person has to be concerned in what they’re reading or learning,” said McConnell.

What types of changes have you seen in the media since the project gator raids?

“Not much, in the last few years the media tends to be on the marijuana side. Certainly though elements including their corporate conservative values come into play. Though generally the reporters (the media), on a personal level, you know they’re not against it, they’re for it. I feel it… Just in the way they interview me in the last few days, the way they come into our store. They feel they are more like… Getting my story out, as opposed to telling what the cops did. They’re not making me look bad,” said McConnell.

Jamie McConnel Village Cannabis Dispensary Owner Weed Shop Cannabis Culture

(Image: Jamie McConnell / Courtesy of: Christopher J. O’Brien)

Question posed to Erin Goodwin; Cannabis Activist – Mar. 15, 2017

Do you think the media is the driving force behind society’s notion of cannabis? If so, why?

It is hard to say which has more effect on the other. Because the media often plays up to society’s already formed notion of Cannabis and in other ways it can guide people in one direction or another. But it is the truth behind Cannabis that drives everything forward, so many lies have been told for so long about weed that even if things seem to be going off course, led by media, politicians or police, the truth brings everything back on track,” said Goodwin.

Erin Goodwin Cannabis Culture Toronto Arrest

(Image: Erin Goodwin / Courtesy of:

Question posed to Danielle McCrea; Cannabis Activist – Apr. 2, 2017

Do you think the media is the driving force behind society’s notion of cannabis? If so, why?

“Every time we mention LPs and the Liberal government in bed together the media edits that out. They edit their stories so much that by the third or fourth time around each story is played, they’ve (for example, CP24) edited it completely out… So I feel it’s a media blackout by the liberal government – by NOT letting us know that they’re very attached to the licensed producers,” said McCrea.

Danielle McCrea Budtender Cannabis Culture Village Cannabis Dispensary Weed shop

(Image: Danielle McCrea / Courtesy of: Danielle McCrea)

Question posed to Brent Parsons; Content Manager – – Apr. 3, 2017

Do you think the media is the driving force behind society’s notion of cannabis? If so, why?

“I would completely agree that the media is the driving force behind society’s notion/perspective of cannabis. I would say it always has been, from spreading lies about Reefer Madness and unable to spread good news of cannabis because of a lack of lab testing,” said Parsons.

Society can only make an opinion on a topic once they are informed. With Cannabis being illegal it is hard for people to be open about their consumption and personal benefits. What does get through to the general public is a short snippet that was approved by the media organization.”

“It makes it really hard for average citizens to become informed on all aspects of the cannabis issues unless they have a close friend who uses cannabis,” said Parsons.

“Like with politics in the U.S. I recommend trying independent media organizations like to stay updated.”

Brent Parsons Activist Toronto Weed Medical Marijuana Dankr

(Image: Brent Parsons / Courtesy of: Brent Parsons)

Question posed to David Chiarelli; Free Speech Writer, Activist – Apr. 4, 2017

Do you think the media is the driving force behind society’s notion of cannabis? If so, why?

“One of a few that manufacture consent for the status quo, if we do a Noam Chomsky on it. I once learned in school, though it wasn’t my experience as a teacher, that it always helps to create the public mindset on any number of issues… Always remembers that prohibition is a political act and NOT based upon legal or medical fact,” said Chiarelli.

David Chiarelli Kulture Kultic Weed

(Image: David Chiarelli / Courtesy of: David Chiarelli)

Question posed to Dana Larsen; OverGrow Canada, Cannabis Activist – Apr. 5, 2017

Do you think the media is the driving force behind society’s notion of cannabis? If so, why?

“I think the media plays a role, but it’s not the only force… For many people, direct experience with cannabis is their main perspective, said Larsen.

Are you satisfied with the quality of media attention you’ve received throughout this campaign?

“The media is ok this time… Controversy or a threat from police helps a lot!” Larsen said.

Dana Larsen Hemp Seeds Cannabis seed weed

(Image: Dana Larsen / Courtesy of: Dana Larsen)

Part 4: Links to previously published & related stories by author

Liberal cannabis legislation: Pre-election / Date: March 27, 2015


Medical cannabis research proposal / Date: April 9, 2015


Lift Expo feature review / Date: May 31, 2016


The 3rd Annual Karma Cup feature review / Date: October 24, 2016


The ‘Ha Shish’ Show w/ Vandad Kardar: Opening Night review / Date: November 23, 2016




Christopher J. O'Brien Activist Budtender Cannabis Culture Village Cannabis dispensary weed shop Marc Emery Jodie Emery

(Author: Christopher J. O’Brien – In middle)

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