Milder cannabis is key to broad appeal
All the doom-and-gloom predictions by the naysayers when marijuana was legalized turned out to be about as accurate as the now-infamous Iraq WMD predictions made by the Bush administration. In fact, from what I’ve read lately, the rate of use by teens has actually declined in Washington and Colorado since both states legalized marijuana. Maybe this is a simple case of street-level psychology at work: Make something taboo and teenagers will want it. Make the product readily available at local, well-lit pot shops where minivan-driving, loafer-wearing, 50-something dads shop, and teens will start to see it as about as cool as shopping at Kmart.
That’s the funny thing about legal weed: It seems to be stuck in a place that’s still trying to be edgy and counter-culture, but also accessible and friendly. Welcome to 2016: Pot culture meets American capitalism head on. While we’re probably still many years away from Frito Lay-style end-caps and promotions in retail stores, the inevitable slide into widespread acceptance and consumerism will undoubtedly result in some big changes to the cannabis scene.
In a recent issue of The Atlantic, Mowgli Holmes of Phylos Bioscience compared the current varieties of cannabis to moonshine, saying that “breeding has been inward-looking, making products for stoners. Normal people want to try it, but can’t because they get too high. Legalization should lead to options more like wine or beer.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Last summer, after being told that shade leaf couldn’t get you high, I decided to see if it was true. To my surprise, a couple of hits gave me the same kind of light buzz I remember from the crummy Mexican pot we got in the 1970s. Drawing a parallel to booze, I’d say the effect was comparable to a couple of Miller 64s. That suited me fine since I had work to do, and didn’t want to settle into a couch for five hours of deep thought while listening to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. I would love to see a “lighter” section in a retail store that caters to novices and those who don’t want to get completely baked on Green Crack. My guess is that a light — or low-THC section of cannabis — would be successful for all the same reasons light beer or wine works now. Most drinkers don’t want to get smashed on 151 rum! To make this happen, store owners — who, from my experience, are typically regular users themselves — would have to hire non-users or only occasional users to interact with the potentially huge number of people who don’t want the pot culture version of consumption.
Taking this line of thinking further, you have to wonder if it would even make sense to start a magazine called High Times today. Sure, it’s been around forever and has published a lot of great culture articles, but if you drew another parallel to booze, High Times would be called “Drunk Times.” And the alcohol-based version of Cannabis Cups would be contests to see who could make the most potent bathtub gin and get wasted the fastest.
I think we need to move beyond the pot culture emphasis on potency, and start thinking about marijuana in a more consumer-friendly way. What we need is a message that conveys “buzzed, not baked,” and “simmered, not fried.”