We are all too familiar with the played-out tropes surrounding the ‘lazy stoner’. The Cheeto dusted fingertips, the ill-fitting tie-dye shirt, and the broadly antisocial behaviour exhibited by an unmotivated 20-something year old still living at home off their parents' dime. On occasion, this archetype does still ring true, however, they are in the rapidly decreasing minority of cannabis consumers in Australia and abroad. 

From athletes to tech giants, influencers to CEOs, and lawyers to doctors, the chorus of voices repositioning the plant are growing louder and being back up with hard evidence. Evidence that until late was not only taboo, but outlawed.

A History of Propaganda

Records of cannabis use for medicinal and recreational purposes date back to as early as 2800 BC.[1] Fast forward almost five millennia to the early 1900s and a dedicated smear campaign was being launched in the USA, specifically linking the plant to an alleged increase in crime perpetrated specifically by Mexican immigrants.[2]

As the decades rolled on hysteria gripped the nation and was spreading through the western world. By the 1930s, the ‘industry’ behind cannabis prohibition took hold seeing the release of the now ironically iconic feature, ‘Reefer Madness’, along with other factually incorrect and wildly racist anti-cannabis propaganda.[3]

The negative positioning of cannabis remained the status quo and was widely accepted as truth for the succeeding generations. That is, until the counterculture of the ‘60s and ‘70s sprung to life, which challenged ‘The Man’ and the misinformation being spread. The plant was being repositioned as a beacon of peace and creativity. Alarming the powers-that-be, this wave of positivity was promptly met with the ill-fated ‘War on Drugs’: a mismanaged and widely inequitable crusade that has ruined exponentially more lives than it has saved.[4]

Finally in the 1980s, after almost a century of misinformation and smear campaigns against a plant, scientists discovered the cannabinoid receptors in humans, thus, ushering in the new wave of cannabis being used in modern medicine.[5] By the close of the 90s, many government bodies around the globe were actively funding medicinal cannabis research.

As we welcomed in the 21st century, we also welcomed the era of decriminalised and even legalised recreational use. State by state, country by country, the individual right to responsibly consume cannabis was going mainstream. So much so, that by the time the global pandemic of 2020 hit, cannabis dispensaries were considered essential services in many countries around the world.[6][7]

This widespread acceptance of cannabis for both medicinal or recreational use ushered in a new wave of cannabis ambassadors. Along with artists and musicians, top-tier athletes, tech-entrepreneurs, CEOs, influencers, public intellectuals, doctors and lawmakers have entered the conversation to push for more research and less prohibition. Many openly discuss their own personal use and, more recently, are entering the industry with their own line of products.

Moreover, innovators across the world are using cannabis for a range of daily commodities: rending textiles; hemp-concrete; and even eco-friendly plastic alternatives. Experts believe we are only scratching the surface of what the plant can offer our society. The global perception of the plant has certainly improved over the last century and, with it, so has the perceptions of a cannabis consumer. 

[1] History of cannabis. sydney.edu.au. 

[2] Alyssa Pagano (3 March 2018). The racist origins of marijuana prohibition. businessinsider.com.au. 

[3] Matthew Green (5 January 2018). Reefer Madness! The Twisted History of America's Marijuana Laws. kqed.org.

[4] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (19 August 2016). War on Drugs. britannica.com.

[5] International League Against Epilepsy (27 January 2019). The discovery of the endocannabinoid system: Centuries in the making. newswise.com. 

[6] Caitlin O'Kane (25 March 2020). Marijuana dispensaries in some states deemed an "essential service" during coronavirus lockdowns. cbsnews.com.

[7] Tom Angell (23 March 2020). Coronavirus Crisis Shows Marijuana is 'Essential' and Mainstream. forbes.com.