Josefin Månsson. Foto: Björn Dalin
Josefin Månsson. Foto: Björn Dalin

Månsson, J. (2017). Cannabis discourses in contemporary Sweden – Continuity and change. Stockholm: Department of Social Work, Stockholm University, 2017. 95 s. Fulltext

Opponent var Professor Sveinung Sandberg, Institutt for kriminologi og rettssosiologi ved Universitetet i Oslo

Huvudhandledare: Mats Ekendahl
Biträdande handledare: Alexandra Bogren

Abstract

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.