Why Everybody Can't Get Stoned? The Role of Gender and Ethnicity in Mediating the Differentiated Normalisation of Marijuana use
Aim: To examine the role of gender and ethnicity in shaping attitudes towards the “normalized” (Parker et al., 1998) use of marijuana. Method: Survey and interview respondents were recruited from undergraduate classes at three Canadian universities. Findings: Gender and ethnicity are mediating factors that often exclude women and Pan-Asian students from participation in marijuana-using groups. Interviews with users and non-users illustrate differentiated access to assuming an identity consistent with normalized use. Despite the presence of social-cultural accommodations for sensible marijuana use among white men, a large segment of women and Pan-Asian youth view marijuana as contradictory to their ascribed identity, and thus abstain from its use. Those who participated often did so in unique ways that highlighted their gendered and/or ethnic identity. Non-users were more likely to view white men’s marijuana use as unproblematic, when compared with use by all other groups. These disparate levels of stigma were partially attributed to the media’s portrayal of conventional marijuana users as ‘white’ and ‘male’. Conclusion: The lack of ‘available’ marijuana using identities for women and Pan-Asian students supports the theory of “differentiated normalization” (Shildrick, 2002). The differentiated patterns of normalization highlight the importance of gender and ethnicity in determining the boundaries of subcultural groups. These findings can inform the work of public health professionals by highlighting the role of gender and ethnicity in the development of harm reduction programs focused on youth marijuana use.