There was once a time, decades ago, when being labeled a stoner or pothead was how a person knew they had gotten under the skin of authority. It was almost considered a badge of honor, because it meant the individual, who typically wore his hair long and reeked of weed, was a true representative of all things characteristically burned at the stake under the hole-in-the-sheet ethos of popular culture. This red-eyed legion of civil anarchists were the outlaws of the time, snubbing mediocrity and the 9-to-5 grind preached by their fathers, while carving out a path, many times under clenched fists, for their counterculture to exist in a dimension all its own.
But now that marijuana legalization has taken hold in some parts of the United States, there is a whole new set of rules. While the pot advocates of yesteryear fully embraced the buzz of the cannabis plant, never once dancing around the fact that marijuana just makes the world a more interesting place to live, there are times now when it almost seems the cannabis community doesn’t want the rest of the world to know that this plant can actually get them high. Now, we’re medicating, not getting stoned.
We’re not sure how it happened, but during the apocalyptic decline of the stoner counterculture, much of the cannabis advocacy clique adopted the same dull and drab political stance that the original outlaws fought to disassociate from in the first place.
No longer is it considered acceptable to use terms like “pot,” “weed” and, god-forbid, “dope” when referencing the cannabis plant. Some of the diehards are even trying to eliminate the word Marijuana from the equation. These people are fixated on the racist origins of prohibition. But calling this plant by its scientific name does nothing to change the past, nor is it accurate in the grand scheme of weed history to scream racism every time a word other than Cannabis is used. We’re not here to give you an in-depth history lesson. But Marijuana has been around a lot longer than when Harry Anslinger, the imbecile who sold the U.S. government on the concept of prohibition, started using it for its exotic connotation back in the 1930’s.
Somewhere along the line, cannabis advocates have forgotten where they come from.
Take look at the marijuana publications sold in bookstores in 2018 compared to thirty years ago, the days when buying a copy of High Times was dangerous. What once contained ultra-creative, beautifully penned articles on conspiracy theories, underground grow operations and clashes against the system has morphed into something more clean and polished. Sure, some of the same topics are covered on these pages, but the tone is much lighter. These offerings are created as a means to fit in rather than disrupt.
Pay close enough attention and it becomes readily apparent that most cannabis editors are now striving to become the New York Times of pot.
Even High Times, the undeniable legends of published cannabis culture, has shied away from using terms like “Stoner” and “Pothead.” The preferred nomenclature now is cannabis connoisseur, aficionado, enthusiast, and other missionary monikers used to make pot consumption sound more sophisticated than it was forty years ago.
But this is ridiculous. We are still just getting high, right?
Admittedly, we get it. Image is everything when trying to sell the American public on change. And some might argue that it is the stoner stereotypes that have allowed the prohibitionary standard to go on for as long as it has. But…and this is an important detail to consider, we didn’t start the fight. We might be finishing it, but the stoner culture did not have any part in, well, casting the first stone in the War on Weed. The federal government and its law enforcement goons drummed up the noise that brought about the negative connotations associated with pot use. Yet, whose minds are we trying to change — theirs or ours?
Even in 2018, most so-called cannabis enthusiasts are not walking around in suits, polo shirts and forty-two dollar haircuts, like some of the legalization campaigns attempt to portray. The scene is still full of regular, working-class people, who wear jeans and t-shirts and like to catch a buzz from time to time — some more than that. Yet, the cannabis advocacy community has become the Ganja Gestapo when it comes telling the public which words are acceptable and which are not for this plant. They seem to forget that these are the same hard-working folks responsible for turning legal weed into the multi-billion industry that it is today.
So, is this attempt at language control really necessary?
The good news is we can calm down over what is right and proper with respect to cannabis terminology. It turns out that most people who use marijuana are not sticklers about the verbiage used to describe their admiration for the leaf. I recently conduced a 24-hour Facebook poll asking my friends and followers, many whom support the cannabis industry with their hard-earned money, whether they find old school labels like “Stoner” and “Pothead” offensive. I was rather shocked by the response.
A large majority (92 percent) said they had no issue with either term. Only 8 percent confessed that they would rather be referred to as a “patient.” Some of the 150 respondents, however, chose to clarify their votes in the comment section, adding that their level of acceptance for these terms depends on the context for which they are used. While words like stoner and pothead are okay as terms of endearment, no one who uses marijuana is keen on the idea of being addressed as such by a prosecutor or a judge.
The consensus is that as long as the terminology is not spewed in a derogatory fashion, no one is really getting his or her feelings hurt. A separate Twitter poll turned out similar results.
If marijuana is to become a part of legitimate commerce in the United States, similar to alcohol, the industry should be prepared to service a wide variety of customers. There will be those upscale cannabis users who sniff out bud with the same snobbish vigor as they do craft beer and wine, but there will always be stoners and potheads around to keep the industry humming like a well-oiled money machine. While it is respectable to grow and adapt with the times, legal profit is no reason to become prudes.
Cannabis is a lot of things to millions of people across the nation, including fun. Let’s not lose sight of that.