The Stigma vs. The Normalization of Weed
Green Grass in Red States
The recent history of the United States is peppered with smearing and taboo against marijuana use. American has a fairly puritanical history of conservative happy-family Christian values in public, and in media and political forums, it was constantly the target of propaganda campaigns—from the 1930s film Reefer Madness, depicting marijuana use resulting in murder, insanity, and social ills, all the way up to the “Just Say No” and War on Drugs campaigns that were, in the 1980s, championed by Nancy Reagan and George Bush.
Briefly, in the sixties, marijuana use was hip among the beatnik, hippie, and freak scenes of southern California, but these were a minority, often maligned in media and politics in all other parts of the country. Since the 1990s, weed has been enjoying riding the wave of a new liberalism that seems unstoppable. In the early nineties, weed use was touted by popular Hip Hop acts, like Cypress Hill and Dr. Dre, and it found a comfortable status among the white suburban Grunge fans of the same era.
The New Liberalization
As the country drives deeper into the 21st century, there are some social phenomena that are converging to weaken the resistance to smoking weed, and to further help in the social acceptance of the practice of smoking up.
The first is the information age. It is now impossible to eclipse the true effects of bud under half-baked marketing campaigns by family values organizations with an agenda. The internet and instant media have created a new, enlightened savvy among Millennials and younger generations that utterly resist and see through any attempts to hoodwink them on the facts.
Upon the same token, the internet has borne out several of the benefits of smoking weed. For example, weed is non-toxic, and it is not chemically habit-forming (although you could condition yourself into the habit of smoking it to alleviate your boredom if you’re not careful). Smoking up also has tremendous benefits for people in chronic pain, and in particular, for cancer patients.
The Generation Shift
The second is the aging population. Many of the most rabid opponents to marijuana use in the fifties, sixties, and seventies were products of the Caucasian “War” and the “Lost” generations which preceded the baby boomers. Their time was marked by prohibition and shame, and that translated into eventual policy. With the baby boomers, marijuana might have been a staple of their youths, but they turned coat in the eighties and nineties.
These days, very few people remember the days of knee-jerk reactions to the “sin” of pot smoking, causing the remnants of that zeitgeist to be evaporated with time and replacing it with a new generation that has more liberal values. As these younger generations age, they are translating their own values into policy, which can be seen in several recent moves, from the legalizing of marijuana in Canada, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado to the decriminalization of pot for medical use in traditionally red states like South Dakota.
The third is the success of targeted advocacy campaigns. Since 1970, the advocacy group NORML (whose advisory board features prominent figures like Bill Maher, Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, and Hunter S. Thompson) has been actively raising awareness about how “NORML” marijuana use is, and bringing light on the millions of Americans who smoke marijuana, but also pay taxes, engage socially, attend schools, and work full-time in an attempt to remove the demonic stigma.
Based on the trajectory of the last thirty years, it’s safe to say that marijuana is well on its way to being accepted as common practice, and that interested parties can’t keep a grip on its use any longer because of one glaring fact: marijuana liberalization hasn’t destroyed America; it’s made it much more tolerable.
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