A man sports a marijuana leaf lapel pin at the Colorado Symphony's Classically Cannabis private fundraising event May 23, 2014 at the Space Gallery in Denver. (Denver Post file)

Breaking the stoner stigma: The real faces behind the weed industry

The cannabis industry is trying to show a different face – one that is far from a stoner stereotype.

The National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade association, has launched a new website and series of digital ads showcasing the stories of people who work in the cannabis industry, including a former Marine and older woman who turned to marijuana for relief after having a knee and hip replacement. The politically-focused ads are a first for the marijuana industry and will run in the Washington, D.C., area.

Their launch coincides with congressional hearings for president-elect Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. Sessions is a longtime opponent of marijuana legalization, and many in the industry fear he could crack down on the burgeoning industry, if confirmed. Pro-marijuana activists are expected to protest outside his hearing on Tuesday.

“Cannabis businesses generate billions of dollars in economic activity and support tens of thousands of jobs,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

The website is designed to portray the marijuana business, which generates millions of dollars in tax revenue in states where it is legal, as a legitimate, innovative business like any other. In one snapshot, the Marine, Brian Eberhart, discusses how he became addicted to opiates after being injured discusses weaning himself off painkillers with cannabis. He is now the assistant manager of a marijuana dispensary.

Roger Schultz worked in the plastics industry for 35 years, lost his job and couldn’t find another. The Ohio man is now employed by a manufacturing company that makes machines that extract cannabis oil from the plant.

The ads show the faces of people who work with marijuana, including an older woman and younger man, with the phrase, “I am the cannabis industry.”

One of them, Scott Yoss, said he thought the marijuana industry would be “dominated by hippies,” and instead found it to be filled with people in their thirties. Yoss, who works at a dispensary, said he works within the parameters of the law.

“We have fought hard to be recognized as a legitimate, law-abiding industry, and neither we nor consumers have the right to endanger our freedom by being reckless or disrespectful of local statutes,” he said.

Author Information:
Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post. Follow her on Twitter @katiezez