People using cannabis often conjures images of lazy young men who never leave their couches, and if they do, they get into all kinds of silly trouble. At least, that is image often promoted by Hollywood in campy films. As funny as the depictions are, and far removed from the ridiculous and often racist propaganda from the Reefer Madness days, they do not even come close to depicting what real life cannabis consumers are like. Cannabis consumers are people from all walks of life, and many very successful people have used or currently use cannabis.
80 years of prohibition has driven cannabis consumers into hiding. Through the years, propaganda has been the main source of information on how a cannabis user looked and behaved. In the 1930s, movies Reefer Madness and Assassin of Youth portrayed cannabis users as crazed lunatics or sexually charged. Prohibitionist propaganda was also very racist, such as these statements made by the United States’ first drug czar, Harry Anslinger:
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
More recent depictions of cannabis consumers are less racist, but no less discriminatory. Movies like Pineapple Express and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle depict “stoners” as shiftless youths who get in trouble in ridiculous situations when they leave their couches. None of these stereotypes and propaganda are the slightest bit accurate.
As medical cannabis and recreational cannabis become legalized across the United States, more and more cannabis consumers are coming out of the closet. Cannabis is decidedly safer than alcohol and there is no record of anyone dying from an overdose, and many people, even successful professionals, have been using cannabis for a very long time, and to no detriment to society. Human beings are wired to seek pleasure. Life brings with it emotional and physical pain, and stress. Sometimes they prefer to relax with a glass of wine, some people choose to relax with cannabis. Humans are also social people who like to recreate with other people using mind altering substances, like alcohol and cannabis. People from all walks of life are cannabis users for reasons ranging from medical to recreational, and there are more of them than we realize.
The culture of the cannabis community is rich with diversity. Cannabis users come from all races, all cultures, all religions, and all social strata. They are professionals, parents, teachers, athletes, and political leaders. Successful people such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and President Barack Obama have all used marijuana in large amounts. Chances are everyone knows at least one person who uses cannabis occasionally, and even frequently. Once legalized, the numbers of users will increase, yet this should not be alarming. After legalization cannabis in Colorado, crime has gone down while usage has gone up. Interestingly, fatal car accidents have also gone down, and if this trend continues, it could suggest that people are indeed turning to a far less intoxicating and safer recreational substance such as cannabis.
Cannabis consumers are everyday people. Whether lazy, average, or above average, cannabis users are not the crazed lunatics, hyper-sexual, or dumb and lazy people that they have been portrayed as. There are no sex-crazed rapists stoned on cannabis running around raping women in the states that have legalized. How do we explain wealthy and successful cannabis users when they are supposed to be lazy? And the stigma that cannabis users are dumb is unfounded. Where there is science that shows that cannabis use may harm the brain, there is also science that shows that cannabis use promotes neurogenesis and create new neural pathways, thus improving the brain. There is simply no one stereotype that embodies cannabis consumers. The culture is rich with subcultures, including the counter-culture, yet now that it is becoming legal and acceptable, counter-culture is no longer the only identifiable culture within the cannabis community. More “atypical” types are coming out of the closet, such as successful business people and parents who advocate for its use as a safer alternative to alcohol.
In reality, there is no way to tell between who is a cannabis consumers and who isn’t, no more than there is a way to tell between who drinks and who doesn’t. Cannabis consumers are everywhere, and there are more of them than people realize. It is time for everyone to start coming out of the closet and for the stereotypes to be replaced with the truth, that reasonable and responsible adults who choose cannabis medically or recreationally are regular people, sometimes even leading extraordinary lives, but on average good contributing citizens like the majority of everyone else.