Cannabis legalization has received significant attention from online journalism through the entirety of 2019, and the four months into 2020. According to Google Trends, Google’s free aggregate web searching analysis tool used by inquiring journalists and business professionals alike, Cannabis legalization has already outlasted two blockbuster 2020 news stories that still hold great relevance today – The Impeachment Trial and the Australian Wildfires.
Cannabis is displayed in red.
Impeachment is displayed in yellow
Australia is displayed in blue.
This popularity has resulted in a snowballing effect for legal cannabis legislation – the more people are talking about it, the more politicians will be encouraged to feature their support or opposition to it. Cory Booker (D-NJ), for example, attempted to push for nationwide cannabis legalization in early 2019. Even if that bill didn’t make it, its boldness got more people talking about Cannabis, which would further encourage politicians to highlight their position on the article.
Although there are many explanations as to why the issue’s popularity and news media prominence has not degraded over time, a large portion of its longevity is the result of a public/political cycle which continues to generate new and relevant stories. This cycle contains three steps.
1. The public shows significant interest in cannabis legalization. Many Americans are familiar with the issue, and many more have their own beliefs in favor of or against its legalization. Several are heavily invested in seeing their beliefs about how cannabis legality should be handled become a reality.
2. Politicians recognize the cannabis issue as a source of votes. Those looking to see their side of the cannabis argument ‘win’ will be motivated to vote for candidates who will ‘play for their team’, in a manner of speaking. Candidates, then, are encouraged to make known their stance on the issue.
3. Elected candidates impose legislation regarding cannabis legalization. Once elected on a pro/con cannabis stance, politicians seeking a successful career (or seeking to make a difference) may attempt to forward or fight cannabis legalization. They may read, write, or vote on cannabis bills. Some of these bills may be passed, while many will not. However, the quantity of cannabis-related content in the political sphere will generate news content, stimulating public interest, and re-starting the cycle.
And while more popularity could often be seen as a good thing for any communal movement, the leakage of said ‘popularity’ into the political sphere could come with a troubling set of drawbacks pertaining to the amount of care put into the execution of certain pro-cannabis policies. But even in the event of poor implementation leading to an unfavorable outcome of a cannabis policy, related news stories would still feed step one of the cycle. Whatever political changes are to be enacted by this movement, it would seem its popularity isn’t going to change anytime soon.