We live in an era where racial and religious tensions seem to be at their highest point in decades. This socio-political landscape makes broad-stroke stereotyping and misinformation campaigns especially effective and dangerous.
However, to me, the marijuana movement has been one of the few subjects in recent years that has made measurable, meaningful social progress. People have finally begun to allow facts to guide their beliefs, rather than propaganda and unsubstantiated personal biases.
In the three years we’ve been publishing Marijuana Venture, I’ve had countless people tell me they never have and never will use marijuana, yet they fully support legalization. They recognize that the War on Drugs has been a complete failure, both in its ineffectiveness and its wasteful spending of taxpayer money; they’ve opened their eyes to the true medicinal value of cannabis; they recognize that it’s far safer than alcohol, tobacco and many pharmaceuticals; and they acknowledge that the dangers of prohibition outweigh those of legalization.
But every once in a while, something will catch my eye and remind me how far we still have to go. Typically, it’s a head-slapping statement from some right-wing politician, such as Jeff Sessions likening marijuana to heroin. In other circumstances, it’s the concoction of some marketing dimwit — remember Buddie, the legal-weed mascot of ResponsibleOhio?
In early April, that jaw-dropping moment of disbelief came in the form of “Weed Smoke OK,” a short, animated series distributed by High Times that rolls out every awful pot-related stereotype you can imagine.
The characters, mostly dispensary employees and customers, are nymphomaniacs, drug addicts, hucksters and Svengalis. They’re portrayed as lazy, stupid, dirty and forgetful — “Frank, dude, forgot to pay the electric bill,” laments the main character in one scene.
The absurdity of the plot is only outmatched by the perpetual undertones of racism and misogyny.
And perhaps worst of all, it’s not even funny.
I don’t get offended easily. Actually, I really enjoy off-color humor that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Weed Smoke OK doesn’t offend my delicate sensibilities, per se. If it were funny — like Don Rickles on the warpath, or even “Half Baked” — some of the content might be forgivable. Let’s just say this is a far cry from a stand-up comic cracking foul on potheads.
But it’s not hard to imagine the type of people who probably enjoyed Weed Smoke OK the most — those looking to confirm negative stereotypes about marijuana users in order to generalize the entire industry:
People like Jeff Sessions, the anti-civil rights attorney general of the United States, the man who was too racist to be a federal judge back in the 1980s but just the right level of racist to be the nation’s top law enforcement official in 2017.
People like Kevin Sabet, the prohibitionist crusader who uses lies to push his agenda, a man who likely salivates at the idea of just one fatal marijuana overdose to prove his rhetoric.
People like drug czar nominee Tom Marino and Chris Christie, chairman of the Trump administration’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission. In other words, people who blindly believe the negative stereotypes with every fiber of their being.
It’s worth noting that the cartoons were not specifically created by High Times, but by publishing the cartoons, the iconic magazine brand is sanctioning these horrendous stereotypes.
I’m guessing there will be backlash.
Marginalizing cannabis users and business people has the potential to erase decades of progress.
High Times should know this better than anybody.
But then again, maybe that was the intention.