Pot and Pop Culture

When you are watching a TV show and one of the characters takes a drink of alcohol, most people don’t even think about it. They could have taken a drink of anything, or even taken a bite of a sandwich; it all comes across as a routine part of the character’s day, and therefore a routine part of the scene.

Now think about when you see a reference to marijuana on TV, or see a character toke a joint or hit a bowl. Everything else in the scene becomes secondary because you are focused on the weed. Some will say this is because cannabis users identify with other cannabis users, but it goes beyond that. Even someone who has never tried marijuana is likely to focus on that part of the scene because it’s something that has not becoming socially acceptable on the same level as alcohol. Illicit activities always grab a viewers attention, and marijuana still resides in the realm of the not-socially acceptable, even for many regular users.

Of course, this is changing, on TV and in other areas of pop culture. Since the days of the early Cheech and Chong movies, “stoner culture” was portrayed in popular culture with increasing regularity. For a while “reefer madness” took over in the 1980’s and weed was a topic for after school specials about the evils of drugs. Then came the 90’s and a return of the 70’s…courtesy of That 70’s Show, and movies like Half Baked, which brought the comedy back to a non-toxic plant that too many had been too serious about for too long.

As anyone who watches TV or movies nowadays knows, marijuana is a common part pop culture and entertainment; this goes for music and the web as well. It is becoming less “shocking” to many viewers to see marijuana discussed or even consumed; this shows that cannabis is well on its way to becoming “socially acceptable.” In other words, becoming something that most people hardly even notice in the midst of their daily lives.

harold_and_kumar_weed“You’d have ‘Reefer Madness’ on the one hand or Cheech & Chong on the other. Now you still have ‘Harold & Kumar,’ but it has become less and less of a thing,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana represents something about the context of the scene, but not a major part of it anymore.”

In some respects the momentum cannabis enjoys in pop culture is as important as the momentum it enjoys in the political arena.

The bottom line is that marijuana should not be a big deal. Prohibition has made it a big deal and it will still be sometime before cannabis returns to its natural state in society.

– Joe Klare

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