Happy, healthy, holy smoke! Celebratory discourses in cannabis self-help

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Cannabis is imbued with a miraculously diverse range of positive meanings, yet previous research has tended to focus on its negative meanings and stigma. To attain novel insights on cannabis consumption phenomena, this thesis backgrounds the notion of stigma and instead chooses to investigate how cannabis use is celebrated. By conducting a discourse analysis on six recently published cannabis self-help books, this thesis extends previous research on celebratory cannabis discourses. Cannabis self-help books are market-mediated cultural texts where the authors, as cultural intermediaries, offer consumers their expertise on how to attain a “happier, healthier and holier” life with culturally fine-tuned forms of cannabis consumption. This thesis extends the previously monolithic category of celebration by delineating four distinct celebratory positions, that is, four distinct purposes of cannabis consumption with distinct practices. These positions are named the Progressive, the Purist, the Hedonist, and the Optimizer. The Progressive celebrates cannabis as a tool for social progress; the Purist celebrates cannabis’ ability to produce profound shifts in ordinary thought; the Hedonist celebrates cannabis’ ability to immerse the individual into the inherent pleasures of play; the Optimizer celebrates cannabis’ performance-enhancing qualities. Also, two syntheses of these positions are identified. These are Religious Devotion, where cannabis consumption attains a profound significance in the individual’s life; and Cannabis Magic, where practical motives for use are willfully combined with aesthetic and emotional ones. The celebratory positions are shown to have distinct and sometimes mutually opposing consumption goals. The relations between these positions are illustrated with a semiotic square. The analysis of the consumption narratives shows how consumers formulate consumption practices to attain desired consumption goals in accordance with each celebratory position. The results suggest that grouping cannabis users and their purposes into a single category is deficient for understanding the full width of cannabis consumption phenomena. The role of cultural intermediaries in legal cannabis markets is discussed to play a role in legitimizing cannabis consumption but also in producing new needs, wants and desires particularly for consumers who are beyond the black market’s reach.
Thesis advisor
Mikkonen, Ilona
consumer culture, cannabis, self-help, cultural intermediaries, discourse analysis
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