When I saw a couple of snotty rich young ambitious marijuana marketing types in The New York Times yesterday claiming they were “weeding out the stoners” and that they “want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis,” I got pissed, because I am a stoner. And I was especially pissed because I was traveling on business and couldn’t do what I usually do when I get pissed, which is smoke weed. Or vaporize it. Or eat a candy.
Regardless, I was an angry pothead.
We don’t need to “weed out” the stoners. And we certainly don’t need to gentrify them with stupid “Vape and Vinyasa” classes and “cannabis sommeliers.” I say this as someone who does yoga every day and who also knows the difference between sativa and indica by smell. I can compare the flavor profiles of different hybrids as well as any pro. But the last thing I want is to have my smoke selected for me by a lab-coat-wearing sommelier.
In my storied stoner career, I’ve smoked high and low, from the ditchiest ditch weed to the most elevated White Widow Cannabis Cup variation available off the Prinzengracht. I was “consuming” cannabis before the young entrepreneurs behind the hopefully soon-to-be-defunct pot-based PR agency Cannabrand were born.
While I haven’t yet had the privilege of visiting Colorado since it began the Great Experiment, I did live in Southern California for a few years, where it was harder to get a Costco membership than it was to obtain a medical marijuana card. In those years, I visited a few dispensaries that were a bit skeezy, and some that were definitely owned by Eastern European criminals. But that’s understandable, since California’s pot system still floats in a legal greyness.
In Colorado, where that greyness has been greened, I highly doubt that even one of the dispensaries looks like an “underground abortion clinic.” Where I live right now, in Texas, underground abortion clinics are actually about to return, which makes that statement one of the most offensive, clueless and entitled things I’ve heard in a while.
Here’s the thing about stoners: Some of them are CEOs and moms. They are also, occasionally, shiftless losers. And self-employed entrepreneurs and small business owners. And doctors. And musicians. And comedians. And professional athletes. And novelists. And lawyers. And scientists. And movie stars. And cops. I’ve smoked with all those types of people in my life. I’ve smoked with most of those types of people this year.
The young rich entrepreneurs behind Cannabrand don’t seem to understand that weed doesn’t need rebranding. It needs to be legalized, intelligently and universally, so returning veterans with PTSD can get some relief if they choose that path, so people with AIDS and glaucoma and epilepsy can have another medical option, so people with anxiety and depression can get medicine specifically suited to their particular need, so people can chill at the end of a stressful work day, so music will sound better, cartoons will be funnier, food will taste better, and stoners can enjoy themselves.
Most importantly, marijuana needs better marketing, and thereby becomes legal, so millions of people, most of them black and Latino, no longer rot in jail for something that should, at worst, be a consensual crime punishable by a tiny fine.
Whipped-cream-covered “420 lifestyle” girls are about as subtle as a red-eyed Tweety bird wearing a rasta cap and smoking a joint. That won’t turn the squares, and it’s sexist and reductive to boot. But the Cannabrand way is not the way forward.
If you want a really effective marketing campaign for marijuana, don’t sell it as a boutique lifestyle drug for trendy idiots. Take it authentically mainstream. Show us the faces of real stoners, show us real testimony of functional people who it’s actually helped. Have a sense of humor about it all. But whatever you do, if cannabis is going to be legal, don’t let it just be another a yuppie lifestyle accoutrement.
Why does this all have to be so crazy? Why can’t it just be about normal people relaxing? I’ve had some of the best nights of my life getting high in people’s basements. If there’s a store that has good weed and is willing to put something decent on the sound system, where there are chill people hanging and getting high together, I’d be sure to stop by after work if I actually had a job.
I want to go where everyone forgets my name.
In other words: Less Aspen, more Cheech and Chong. Or maybe, ideally, a little bit of both, somewhere in between, where the people reside.