If it happened to Rock ‘n’ Roll, will it happen to cannabis? For the past 75 years, cannabis has been an underground, countercultural phenomenon. From the beatniks of the ’50s, to the hippies of the ’70s, to the rastafarians of the ’80s and ’90s, cannabis has always represented an alternate way of life. A rebellion against restricting social norms.
Yet, as the herb becomes more mainstream, what will happen to the decades of ganja, bong hits, and kush girls? In an editorial featured in the Seattle PI blog, Jake Ellison points out that once Rock ‘n’ Roll moved from the underground in the ’60s and ’70s to out in the open, the rebellious, protest culture turned commercial. What was once an outlet for disgruntled youth gained mass appeal, transforming into a new norm.
Cannabis is beginning to suffer the same fate. Over the past two decades medicinal cannabis has gained legitimacy, moving the conversation about the plant from “psychoactive drug” to natural medicine. Now, more than 20 states and Washington D.C. have authorized medicinal cannabis programs, and polls suggest around 85% of Americans feel that cannabis has valid medical uses.
Once Americans began to conceptualize cannabis as medicine, people then began to accept that consuming the plant as a personal choice. This is evidenced by a recent Pew Research Center study, which found that 72% of Americans now feel that enforcing cannabis laws costs more than it’s worth. Cannabis is just another thing people enjoy.
While the changing face of cannabis may cause some diehard “stoners” to feel a little sentimental, the rise of a mainstream cannaculture may not be such a bad thing. As Ann Friedman points out in her article for The Cut, cannabis counter culture hasn’t been very welcoming to women. Rather than including all types of female cannabis consumers, current cannaculture tends to glorify “hot kush girls,” turning women into “magical, spandex-wearing boob fairies.”
The sexualization of women in the cannabis industry as it stands leaves very little space for potential cannaconsumers who do not wish to identify with the countercultural norms. As cannabis moves from behind the scenes to center stage, more people will be able to identify as cannabis enthusiasts without facing stigmatization from either side of the table.
Some cultural icons such as William Panzer, a celebrated cannabis attorney and former High Times Freedom Fighter of the Year, are concerned that increased commercialization will lead to “Marlboro pot,” meaning large corporations will cause the cannabis industry to lose its small scale, mom and pop feel. The benefits of going mainstream, however, outweigh the costs. Greater inclusion leads to less persecution, reducing the antagonism felt by pothead-loyalists and marijuana moms alike. Though some cannaculture memes may have to be sacrificed, going mainstream means the rebels have ultimately won their battle.