Marijuana industry looking for respectability, end to stoner stereotypes

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The marijuana industry is trying to combat the old stereotypes of users with new marketing efforts promoting the use of cannabis by professionals and everyday people.

One of the biggest obstacles for the marijuana industry may be its stigma.

Many people may still associate the industry with the stoner stereotype. But new steps are being taken to legitimatize the industry, including the addition of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the board of a cannabis company.

MedMen added Villaraigosa to its board as it launches a multimillion dollar campaign to dispel that stereotype.

The Forget Stoner campaign features successful people in various industries - executives, police officers, teachers - discussing how and why they use cannabis products.

"We're seeing more marketers and advertisers who are starting to show this consumer more respect," said cannabis marketing expert Linda Gilbert. "They're starting to show this consumer more recognition of who they are in reality, versus what that stereotype has been."

Some worry that improving pot's image increases its potential for harm, with possible consequences that include bronchitis, schizophrenia and driving accidents.

Kevin Sabet, president of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, is warning that the industry is following tactics used by tobacco companies years ago to legitimize the product by showing professionals using and endorsing it.

"The marijuana industry is not about Cheech and Chong anymore, it's not about Woodstock," Sabet said. "It's about Wall Street and Silicon Valley."

Cindy Paul, a 55-year-old insurance client manager, says she hasn't smoked marijuana in 25 years. But she found her way into a shop recently to try some marijuana gummies.

"I do think it has medical qualities," Paul said. "I'm not using it for that. I'm using it to have a good time. I don't think it's any different than having a beer."
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