Legal in four states and the nation’s capital, positioned to be made legal in several states in 2016, and now seemingly as American as apple pie and baseball. It’s plain to see there has been a sea change in public opinion about cannabis use. Cannabis, ganja, marijuana, — it’s everywhere we go — we see the familiar leaf emblazoned on clothing, it’s used in major films, we hear about it in music, and in the political realm, the president is hounded by questions of legalization. What was once a symbol of the counterculture in the United States seems to have become a part of mainstream culture.
We have seen this shift reflected in film, with the most obvious shift happening with the resurrection of “stoner-buddy” type comedies – a genre that was arguably created in 1978 with the release of Cheech and Chong’s “Up and Smoke.” Throughout the past two decades, we’ve seen majorly successful films with marijuana use and “stoner culture” at their core. “How High,” “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle,” “Pineapple Express,” the list goes on. With half the country supporting legalization, and it’s recreational use so prevalent in film and media, it’s safe to say that marijuana is not going away anytime soon.
What does the shift in mainstream opinion about marijuana use mean for “stoner culture” itself? Is the “stoner culture” that accompanies marijuana use now mainstream? Can we expect a large majority of the population to understand “420” or “710” references? Time will tell, but it seems like, at least in film, that YES, we can. A bit of a strange feeling, isn’t it? It seems like that scene from Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay where our beloved protagonists smoke marijuana with President Bush might not be too far off from reality.