Radical Rant: The Last Generation of Stoners

stoners, smoking weed
Photo by Dan Skye

This election we have a record nine states and one territory voting for marijuana reform, either through adult legalization in California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine, or through medical marijuana in Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, Montana[1] and the Northern Mariana Islands[2].

The more positive change we have away from marijuana prohibition, the more I begin to wonder—who will be the last generation of stoners?

A freshman at UCLA today perceives the world far differently than I did 30 years ago as a freshman at Boise State. For that UCLA freshman, a gay Mideast-war veteran and her wife running a legal pot shop is a normal part of life. That freshman can’t recall those peaceful halcyon days of the 20th Century when we didn’t ask, didn’t tell and scored our dime bags in a parking lot.

As time goes on, cannabis will become more legal in more places. Eventually, it will be just another adult consumable, like wine, cigars and edible underwear. And while that’s a good thing, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll be losing some of our culture.

For generations, we have evolved a culture in reaction to the pressures of living within an outlaw market. We came up with codes like “420” and “safety meeting” so we could identify each other without outing each other. We formed social norms like “puff, puff, pass to the left” and “don’t bogart that joint” to ensure that everyone got a fair hit on the rare flower. We carried little pocket scales to our parking lot deals and gathered every little crumb out of that bag with the tip of a pinkie finger.

Those days aren’t gone yet, especially in the Midwest and Deep South. But they will be, probably before I pass on. Someday marijuana will really be treated like alcohol. With that will come a permanent shift in how we view cannabis and its consumers.

Think about how we frame drinkers. First off, when you read the term “drinker,” it’s usually combined with the adjectives “problem” or “social.” That’s because “drinker” by itself doesn’t connote much, because it is presumed that most people drink alcohol at some level.

Second, you don’t think of a “drinker” as someone who is dedicated to the drinking lifestyle, who celebrates the drinking culture, and is into drinking activism. “Drinkers” come from all walks of life and enjoy alcohol at different levels.

No, the closest term in the alcohol world to match “stoner” would be “drunk.” Someone who is socially outcast for their extreme love of alcohol, whether or not it is dysfunctional to themselves. One who is defined by their use of alcohol, for whom drinking is a major facet of their personality. One who cannot be pictured without a drink in their hand.

In other words, over the next generations, “stoner” will evolve from being the catch-all definition of all pot smokers to being a derogatory definition of a problem pot smoker. For most people, smoking pot won’t define their lives any more than beer defines most drinkers’ lives. It’ll just be another thing that occasionally a few adults have problems with. I’ll seem as antiquated saying “stoner” and “marijuana” as the generation before me when they say “grass” and “three-finger lid.”

Some of the good aspects of “stoner” culture will die off as well. We won’t be as heterogeneous as prohibition forces us to be, where blue collar, white collar, black, white, straight, gay, religious and secular all join the same joint circle. Already, I see more individuals puffing away solo on vape pens. As cannabis becomes more accessible and less demonized, our toking circles are going to become more like our other social groups, where we mix with people of like minds and cultures.

I wouldn’t wish us to go backward, though. With legality will arise new generations that integrate cannabis into the lifestyles they already lead, rather than integrating their lifestyles to adjust to cannabis prohibition. And I’ll be there to tell them, “back in MY day, we had to roll joints because you could get jail time for a pot pipe, and you had to cup the joint inside your palm so the cops couldn’t see the cherry passing from dude to dude in a dark parking lot!”

[1] Montana is voting to restore their medical marijuana system from draconian limits established by the legislature in 2011.

[2] If passed, a majority of U.S. Territories (N. Marianas, Puerto Rico, and Guam) will have medical marijuana, with only American Samoa and U.S. Virgin Islands remaining.

Last Week’s Radical Rant: The Last State to Legalize Marijuana Will Be…

  1. I was thirteen years old when I bought my first bag of pot. A nickel bag for five bucks. Went down inside a friend’s basement where we hung out on weekends and I smoked it. Not all of it though. I used a nail for a roach clip, lol. All I remember was waking up as though I passed out while standing. The effects of it was so amazing I giggled with excitement. Being a kid with dissociative identity disorder…I found my medicine! By the time I reached high school age and had money because I worked, I hardly ever found myself being without pot. I would get stoned in the morning and stay stoned until night when I went to sleep. A quarter of an once per week was my prescription.
    Unfortunately today I am broke and have severe PTSD now and cannot afford pot most of the time. But I live in Massachusetts (I don’t have a marijuana medical card because I fear they may come after my firearms) and when recreational use becomes legal I’m growing my medicine.

  2. yep it’ll all be over soon for the original stoners -my first oz was 15 bucks back in 75 and yea a nickel bag was 5 bucks -this tax and regulate BS sweeping the country is much worse than prohibition -quality is going down the tubes and prices will remain high because of all the bribes, sellouts, payoffs, ripoffs disguised as regulation. The Black market will thrive because politicians are unethical and stupid -and people are dumb enough to keep voting for the same vultures and thieves..

  3. I have been smoking on and off since my high school days.. fifteen dollar bag of mexican panama red if you were lucky.. what I miss is the brown and black hash one could get in Northern Ca in the eighties.. boy that was a creative time haha.. Now retired and living in the midwest where the price remains the same 50 eight.. the price might change.. if some nearby state makes the stuff legal..

  4. As one of those original stoners, I really don’t care. I just want to be able to smoke my smoke without fear of the law coming down on me for doing so. To each his own and all that, but all I really care about is that it’s legal and we can all smoke in peace.

    1. Exactly. I could give two shits less about being the last “rebels” I just want to be able to walk down the street in public smoking a fat joint without having to worry if cops are around.

  5. Change is inevitable. Can’t hold back the tide. Those of you in non-enlightened states, stay strong and to what you can for the cause. What ever help you can give to your local NORML chapter
    or other activist cause will help move your state closer to the
    Promised Land.

    Sadly, I agree. The ‘outlaw’ culture of the stoner is coming to its end. Russ’ essay sums it up perfectly. Up in Smoke, Dazed and Confused – those days are gone. We’re all grey-haired and wrinkled, looking less like a Freak Bros and more like Mr. Natural. That’s cool though. We had our time, now its up to the younger folks to smoke weed, cause trouble and irritate their elders. Now, get off my lawn!

  6. There will always be a place for people from all walks of life to get together and pass the joints around the circle – as long as there’s a Rainbow Family. – I believe it will be for centuries. It fills a huge gap formed from our loss of communities, and serves as an important new “religion” more relevant than the centuries-old fairy tales. – Ho! – Plus, the critical thinking gained in ending this American Inquisition will serve us well as we root out the warmongers and one-percenters from our “leadership.” —– Pass the sacrament!


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