Few things have experienced such a massive shift as rapidly as cannabis culture.
Today, almost every state in the union has legalized at least some form of cannabis product, and more and more states are adopting full-on recreational markets. At the rate things are going, it’s not hard to imagine an America where pot is legal from coast to coast in all 50 states in the very near future. But what would that mean for the culture? Some people say that with a firm enough grasp on history, one can tell the future. So with that thought in mind, let’s take a look at how existing legalization efforts have already impacted cannabis.
The Culture Of Cannabis Prior To Legalization
Back in my day, weed came in ziplock baggies or torn-off corners of plastic grocery bags. None of these fancy airtight glass jars. The guy you got it from was always at least two hours late, and that’s the way we liked it!
Let me take off my angry old man hat and speak seriously. Before there were sleek dispensaries filled with glass counters and hip minimalist furniture, you had to know someone, or at least know someone who knew someone, to get your hands on some marijuana. While this made acquiring cannabis sometimes practically challenging, it did encourage a certain degree of socialization. You made friends sitting around the dealer’s coffee table, passing blunts back and forth, waiting for the right amount of time to pass for it to be socially acceptable to leave. The practice of “matching” seemed much more common back then. A group of friends would pool their funds together to get a better deal on a larger quantity of cannabis, go down to the creek, and smoke together. Stoners were united by their brazen disregard for prohibition laws and when you met a fellow toker, you had that in common—like you were both in on a secret joke that went over everyone else’s head. Smoking pot made you subversive, it made you alternative. It wasn’t so much a cannabis culture as it was a cannabis counter culture.
Cannabis Culture Today
Today, in many states like Washington or California where buying weed is as simple as going to the grocery store, some of the old guard feel that recreational cannabis is destroying the culture.
Dispensaries solve the age-old problem of unreliable dealers, but they also take away some of the communal aspects. When you can just drive down the street anytime between the hours of 9am and 9pm to pick up an eighth, instead of crowding in a dingy basement with other ne'er-do-wells, you miss out on some eccentric banter and lifelong friendships.
It also brings cannabis into the mainstream. Now your grandma who used to constantly deride you for smoking weed is using CBD oil for her arthritis. The corporate suits you and your fellow potheads once protested are now majority shareholders in a company that makes THC-infused caviar. Billionaire Elon Musk, is on a podcasts smoking joints with Joe Rogan, and now everyone else is in on the joke.
Change Isn’t Always Bad
It’s not uncommon for the older generations to resist cultural change, so why would we expect it to be any different among cannabis users? It’s true, there’s been a dramatic change in the culture of cannabis during the last five years, and smoking weed is markedly not as cool as it once was.
However, more people than ever before are able to access the healing and therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant. As the stigma around weed dissipates into smoke, people who would have never considered using a cannabis product are now finding that it helps assuage various different ailments.
By far, the biggest benefit to this cultural shift is the potential amnesty for those who were incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes. For decades, police in this country have used marijuana to target POC, and we’ve filled for-profit prisons to the point of bursting with people who simply wanted to enjoy a plant. As more areas of the country legalize cannabis, it’s essential that we as a voting public don’t forget about those who’ve already been victimized by this country’s disastrous drug policy.
For this author, a shift in the culture seems like an incredibly small price to pay to keep fellow cannabis enthusiasts from being locked behind bars.