Veronica Wilken

Public relations (PR) agencies are beginning to take on clients within the American cannabis industry and this paper examines what their precise role will be within the field. In order to expand the cannabis industry, PR agents must nurture and develop an existing emergent culture, which has the ability to influence politics and overturn prohibition on a federal level. To date in the US, cannabis remains illegal on a federal level. This is the national government, however, some states have legalised on a state-level regardless of federal prohibition. This signals a shift in cultural and political discourse regarding cannabis legalisation. PR agents must refine and direct this emerging culture—which is a discursive phenomenon—that promotes cannabis as a natural substance with medicinal properties which can benefit the US socially and economically. The central argument of this paper is that the changing public perception of cannabis is achieved first within the cultural realm, then the political. This requires a resetting of the current discursive terrain that upholds prohibition; moreover, this paper asserts that this discursive practice is, and always has been, employed to retain power over and manage minority groups.