Framing the User: Social Constructions of Marijuana Users

9796 words 40 pages
Framing the User: Social Constructions of Marijuana Users and the Medical Marijuana Movement

Nelson A. Pichardo Almanzar Dept. of Sociology Central Washington University Ellensburg, WA 98926

Thanks to Laura Appleton and Ericka Stange for comments on an earlier draft. Thanks also to Kirk Johnson for his assistance in locating criminal data sets.

Framing the User: Social Constructions of Marijuana Users and the Medical Marijuana Movement

ABSTRACT Social movements are continuously engaged in the act of framing. Whether it is to present their message in a positive light or to cast their opponent’s arguments in a negative light, SMs find it necessary to engage in a public contest over how they are perceived.
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The more congruent these elements are, the more credible their frame. Empirical credibility refers to the degree to which the claims can be empirically verified. Obviously, the more empirically credible the SMO’s claims the greater the resonance. Although “empirical credibility is in the eyes of the beholder” (Jasper and Poulsen 1995:496), a SMO is likely to have problems if it cannot expand its credibility beyond the core of the movement activists. The credibility of the frame articulators concerns the believability of those who make the claims. Each of these factors influences a movement’s appeal. Additionally, there is also the issue of the saliency of the frame to targets of mobilization. There are three dimensions to saliency: centrality, experiential commensurability and narrative fidelity. “Centrality has to do with how essential the beliefs, values, and ideas associated with the movement frames are to the lives of the targets of mobilization” (Benford and Snow 2000:621). Experiential commensurability has to do with the degree to which a frame resonates with the personal, everyday experiences of the target. The third factor affecting salience is narrative fidelity. Narrative fidelity concerns the degree to which the frame is consistent with the target’s cultural narrations. Hypothetically, the more central, the greater the experiential


commensurability, and the more culturally resonant a frame