The year is 2008, and we’re in Texas. George W. Bush is president. Gay marriage is illegal; cannabis is definitely illegal (and still is in the Lone Star state, other than low THC products for limited medical patients). Not too long ago, the Dixie Chicks, who now go by The Chicks, were dropped from country music stations and blasted by contemporaries for saying they were ashamed to be from the same state as Bush, as they did not support the invasion of Iraq. And Johnathan Nguyen, who will one day grow up to be an insanely talented makeup artist living in a big old city, is in his peak high school years and in the midst of questioning his sexuality and crushes on boys. “I remember the day my cousin let me listen to “Our Song” by Taylor Swift. I felt an earthquake inside my soul. I truly believe that was my gay awakening,” he says. When asked his favorite Swift song, Nguyen replies: “These are very intense questions. I am stoned listening to Midnights. I take relaxing breaths as the cerebral bass hits my entire indica-fused body. I’m currently listening to ‘Snow on the Beach,’ and it slaps so hard. But I’m also thinking ‘Our Song’ from her debut album because I’ve come back to this song time and time again. It reminds me of an easier, more innocent time in my life. Ok, ok, fine. It’s ‘Anti-Hero.’”
Recently, with the release of Swift’s heady music video for “Lavender Haze,” from her tenth studio album, Midnights, publications from Leafly to Vogue questioned whether the song, which features a lovely Tay Tay blowing smoke rings, was a nod to cannabis. Swift says on Instagram that the inspiration for the song is that buzzy, NRE (new relationship energy) feeling of falling in love—one she wishes to maintain and protect in her long-term relationship with actor Joe Alwyn. “I happened upon the phrase ‘lavender haze’ when I was watching Mad Men,” shared Swift. “I looked it up because I thought it sounded cool and it turns out that it’s a common phrase used in the ’50s where they would just describe being in love.”
While, given that Swift spent her 20s being ripped to shreds by the media, who dissected every relationship she was in, shamelessly slut-shammed her, and undoubtedly played a role in resulting breakups, it’s understandable how she wishes to protect her current relationship with Alwyn, her “End Game,” going on six years, from the talons of the tabloids. However, many were quick to point out the psychedelic similarities between “Lavender Haze” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” There’s even a strain of cannabis called Lavender Haze, which is also called G13. 13 is Taylor’s lucky number. From drawing the number on her hand during the Speak Now World Tour to the 13 tracks on Midnights, she peppers the number 13 (and others, Swift is a mastermind at using numbers as easter eggs) in basically everything she does. Cannabis users may relate to some of the word choices in the song, such as “I feel a lavender haze creeping up on me.” Stoned Swifties (a subgroup of fans that even have a Reddit page) insist that while lavender haze indeed refers to euphoric love, her songwriting is always more layered than that confetti birthday cake in the All Too Well short film.
“Say what you want about Taylor Swift, but you can never say she can’t write a damn good song,” says Tina Baer, who works in a cannabis dispensary and whose claim to fame is coining “Swemo,” a term to describe an emo Swiftie. Baer’s favorite Swift song is “Ivy,” off her ninth studio album, Evermore. “I’ve been screaming with my whole chest since Evermore was released that ‘Ivy’ is the most low-key stoner song. Let’s start with the fact that this song is 4 minutes and 20 seconds long. On top of the lyric ‘it’s a goddamn blaze in the dark.’ The metaphors could allude to so many things, and I know the song is a story about forbidden love, but something in me cannot help but connect it to cannabis.”
Let’s be clear: While she sings that some guy said her aura’s moonstone just ‘cause he was high, Swift has never said she uses cannabis. We don’t know if Swift likes cannabis, but cannabis sure as hell loves Swift. “I don’t know if you could truly understand the mastery of Taylor Swift’s songwriting without cannabis,” says Melissa A Vitale, publicist and founder of Melissa A Vitale Public Relations, the first plant and intimacy wellness PR agency. “None of her songs are on the surface; you have to explore between the lyrics to fully grasp the meaning of each ballad. It’s euphoric when you finally piece together all the hidden meanings in her choruses. I don’t know if I’d be able to experience her words as deeply as I do without cannabis.” Vitale’s favorite Swift song is: “The Man – I am the man, she is the man, all boss babes are the man. Fuck the man and only fuck men, not little boys.”
A recent survey found that over half of U.S. adults are Swift fans. Certainly, not all of them smoke weed, and some will be pissed about an article associating her with cannabis. But Swift’s ability to connect with such a diverse fan base is a testament to what she’s best known for: her songwriting. “She is such a brilliant lyricist,” says Katie Keller, The CannaSwift, whose favorite Swift song is “State of Grace,” noting that this changes daily. “I make every record release a little party of one. It involves a bottle of wine, a journal, and tons of weed. It allows me to disconnect from everything else and focus on the music. You need multiple listens to take in all the words. I love those nights by myself. But the best moments have been meeting other Swifties.” Others agree.
“I especially love meeting other fans who, like me, you may not expect to be Swifties based on our appearance,” says Sohum J Shah, who spent the last decade working in the cannabis industry, most recently as a consultant at SZN Partners. “I also think it’s incredible (and hilarious) that [the] Swift Army is so powerful. Our collective outrage over the Ticketmaster fiasco triggered Congressional hearings into LiveNation and Ticketmaster over issues that artists and fans have been complaining about for years.” Shah went from a casual listener to a full-fledged Swiftie in 2018 when Swift first broke her political silence and encouraged her fans to register to vote and support pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ+ politicians in Tennessee. Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for the nonprofit Vote.org, told Buzzfeed, “We are up to 65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period since T. Swift’s post.” Swift backed Democrat Senate candidate and former Gov. Phil Bredesen and spoke out against Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the GOP candidate for Senate, who, in her 2020 Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, Swift dubbed “Trump in a wig.” Sadly, it wasn’t enough, and Blackburn won the Senate race, but Swift won over hearts like Shah’s.
Also, in Miss Americana, Swift discusses how, as a star with origins in the country world of Nashville, she was repeatedly warned to stay away from politics or else she’d face the same backlash as The Chicks. However, with age, and life experience, not all good (Swift broke her political silence after, among other events, winning a sexual assault lawsuit); it appears she simply stopped giving a fuck. The Chicks are featured on the track “Soon You’ll Get Better,” a song about her mother’s battle with cancer from Swift’s 2019 and seventh studio album Lover. “I lost my mother to cancer thirteen years ago,” Vitale says. “When her doctors found her two stage four cancers, we were never given the possibility that she could be cancer-free. Taylor’s “Soon You’ll Get Better” is a chance to try on a hope we were never given.” Vitale adds that she uses “thirteen” rather than “13” because “I refuse to believe my mom has been gone long enough writing-rules-wise I can start using the digits instead of writing out the numbers. Through heartbreaks, grief, and healing from trauma over the last few years, there have been two constants: an indica-dominant spliff and Taylor Swift playing over the speakers.”
The year is 2023. The lockdowns may be over, but the economic fallout certainly is not. George W. Bush and the Obamas, once fierce foes, seem to be friends, and many of us are too busy reeling from the Trump presidency (Will he go to prison? Be the next president again? Both?) to care. In Swift’s home state of Tennessee, it’s now illegal for drag queens to perform in public (but you can celebrate them in her video for “You Need to Calm Down“). In Nguyen’s home state of Texas, abortion is banned with very little exception, but since Roe V. Wade was overturned, the whole country should be sweating. The world is burning, but for many, cannabis and Taylor Swift offer solace. If you want to read an article critiquing her, Google it; there are enough already. “Have you tried walking at a slow pace around the city while listening to Midnights?” Nguyen asks me. “Instant euphoric music video realness!” And, in the words of this writer’s favorite Swift song, if you have a problem with his epic bejeweled drag makeup, Taylor Swift, or cannabis, all you are is mean.
Author’s note: In my 13 years as a journalist (yes, that is the actual number), I have never received so many interview responses as I did for this article. I apologize to all the Stoned Swifties who were omitted; I appreciate you endlessly. I now know what Tay Tay goes through when narrowing down song choices on an album.