From the very moment we are born we’re slowly injected with societies views and values. We are brought up to think a certain way, dress a certain way and conform to the many expectations placed on us.
Sometimes these views are universal and are found in most cultures throughout history, others are very much of their time. But it can sometimes be hard to determine one from the other when it has been something you have grown up being taught as ‘fact’
In modern times, one of these societal values has been built around the demonization of cannabis which was visible during the reefer madness period.
Despite having legitimate claims to being the world’s oldest cultivated crop, cannabis has come to have a negative perception in society.
While many would point to the psychoactive state cannabis produces as the root of its illicit status and stigma, this alone does not justify the negative views some people have. People have been conspiring against a natural plant while sipping a glass of scotch and retreating to a night of rest with the help of a sleeping tablet. General anaesthesia and morphine is administered to patients with no judgment and cancer patients are quite literally injected with poisons as a form of treatment yet no one bats an eye.
None of this is to say any of the above is fundamentally malicious, but it does demonstrate how there is a double standard to the stigma that exists around cannabis and cannabis consumption.
Up until very recently, governments and the media have continued to fuel this stigma which is now instilled in the minds of many as a fact and legalization alone is not going to end this mind frame. So what will?
What happened to cause the stigma around cannabis?
Despite the negative perception of cannabis held by modern day society, cannabis (or hemp) has actually been used for centuries, dating back 10,000 years. In fact one of America’s own founding fathers, George Washington, owned his own hemp farm and the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. 75% to 90% of all paper in the world was actually made from hemp at the time, as were clothes, sails and food. The medicinal qualities of cannabis have also been known for quite some time and were incorporated into Western medicine as early as the 1830’s.
However it has also had a significant history as a banned substance across various cultures in the last 250 years.
While it has become part of the cultural narrative on cannabis legalization that origin of the stigmatization of cannabis dates back to the 1900s when an influx of Mexican immigrants came to the US, the earliest recorded instance of cannabis prohibition dates back to 1378 in Arabia when Emir of Joneima ordered all plants destroyed and anyone convicted of using ‘hashish’ to have their teeth pulled out.
The word ‘hashish’ was also associated with the Assassins, a well known medieval Shiite sect who would send their assassins to kiss enemies with daggers. Although the Assassins and the recreational habit of smoking hashish had very little connection, it is easy to see why this added to the stigma around cannabis within Arabic culture.
It wasn’t until the late 1700’s that cannabis prohibition really started picking up steam with countries like Madagascar and Egypt among the first to act. While there are different circumstances for every instance of countries criminalising or restricting the use of cannabis, most cases fall under three categories.
- Concern about cannabis’s use as a vice.
- Stigmatization of the drug through linking its use to a group that was considered ‘outside regular society’ and considered less than the rest of society.
- Pressure from powerful countries on the world stage.
The first two points are often intrinsically linked. In some countries the ‘others’ that were stigmatised for their use of cannabis were degenerates and criminals, like in Greece however more often than not, the stigmatization was implicitly or explicitly tied up in racist overtones.
The Canadian parliament criminalised cannabis after public opinion was whipped up to a hysterical state publication called the Black Candle which stated that all cannabis users where “non-white and non-Christian, wanting only to seduce white women” and that there was “an international conspiracy of yellow and black drug pushers” intent on the “domination of the bright proud races of the world”. (source)
In Brazil, cannabis was seen as “opium of the poor” and a politician at the time of prohibition talked of “the pernicious and degenerative vice” of cannabis smoking as a kind of “revenge of the defeated”. He identified cannabis as the revenge of the “savage” blacks against “civilized” whites who had enslaved them. (source)
Much of the same thing happened with other drug prohibitions, particularly in regards to the use of opium in parts of the world where Chinese immigration spread. It is no coincidence that the increase in laws prohibiting cannabis began around the same time as globalisation as countries around the world were exposed to ‘vices’ from other cultures.
The tide is turning
After decades of laws prohibiting cannabis use and possession, the pendulum is very quickly swinging the other way. This decade, 35 laws have been passed around the world that in some way make access to cannabis less restrictive. (source)
However, though the laws are changing facts, it is not a foregone conclusion that the stigma that prohibition cultivated will disappear as well.
Today, cannabis users are generally regarded as ‘stoners’ and ‘lazy slackers’ and have been branded by society to be less than those who don’t use the plant. Research has shown that legalization does little to change that stereotype.
So what exactly will help to rebrand cannabis and end the stigma?
Brands working to end the stigma surrounding cannabis
Whilst the spread of cannabis legalization is slowly encouraging change, there needs to be a shift on a more familiar level to push for societal change. Brands and businesses have a big impact on society’s views and values. Cannabis-related brands are using this influence to rebrand cannabis by the way cannabis is marketed and represented image through reimagining the way cannabis is presented and marketed.
From luxurious dispensaries to beautifully crafted edibles and cannabis accessories, brands are focusing on every small detail to shift the entire cannabis experience.
Below are six brands that we think are helping to shift the way society feels about cannabis with a new attitude that is confident and slick through leaving behind the cliches and rethinking the aesthetics of cannabis products and packaging.
Medmen is one of the most well known cannabis dispensaries in America. They not only sell high quality and high end cannabis products but are also actively pushing to rebrand the typical cannabis perception of ‘stoner’ to the new normal.
Earlier in the year, Medmen created their first-ever commercial which detailed the journey of cannabis from George Washington cultivating hemp to individuals being sentenced for possession of the same plant. Towards the end of the ad there is a montage of everyday people going about their everyday lives as the narrator states that “the symbol of counter culture is at long last just culture”. The company’s efforts to positively transform the negative connotations surrounding cannabis is such a great initiative and we’re excited to see what else the brand produces!
Eaze is a San Francisco based application that allows patients to get medical cannabis delivered straight to their homes in under 20 minutes. It is currently delivering CBD to 45 states and the District of Columbia. Not only can consumers using the app purchase high quality cannabis grown by legal, licensed and thoroughly tested growers, but can also be at the forefront of knowledge on the health benefits of cannabis.
The ease of Eaze adds a casual feel to the purchasing of cannabis, placing it with the likes of Uber Eats and other home delivery services that we have become accustomed to. As cannabis slowly becomes just another part of everyday life, people will begin to accept it as just that. The aesthetics of the app are simple and add to the casual tone of the brand, it looks like any other food delivery of ride-sharing app.
Sweetflag is an online retailer for beautifully designed home goods, accessories and smoking accessories. The website really focuses on the entire experience of smoking cannabis and portrays it as a beautiful journey through separating products into the before, during and after stage. Boasting simple yet elegant visuals you feel an overwhelming sense of calm just from browsing the intricate product designs.
The website is bursting with artistic vision and completely transforms the typical stoner image associated with cannabis products.
1906 is an edibles brand that is redefining the way we currently think of edibles through creating delicious products that are fast acting. The effects of their products can be felt in as little as 20 minutes which allows users to get a more accurate dose with precise and predictable results. There are 5 different edible experiences users can choose from, depending on if they’re looking for improving energy levels, relaxation, cognitive function, mood, sex or sleep.
As 1906 states on their website, “We are on a mission to bring cannabis back to its pre-prohibition status as a mainstream, widely used medicine for the greater good.” Judging on their sophisticated design and high quality products we think that 1906 will soon become a friend to many and help this new image of cannabis become mainstream.
Gossamer is a NYC-based online newsletter that “looks at the world- travel, design, art, culture and food- through a green lens” The newsletter focuses on the notion that cannabis is simply a normal part of life. There doesn’t need to be a strong focus on cannabis itself, but more so on the outlook of the world under the effects of cannabis. They create content that delivers the feeling of a ‘great high’ whether that is through interviews, features, photo essay or, recommendations.
We think this is such a unique way of portraying cannabis culture, it doesn’t make a big deal about cannabis itself, but celebrates the way it makes people feel. Initiatives like these are what is working to end the stigma surrounding cannabis and we couldn’t be more interested in the project!
Tetra is a New York City-based online retailer who sells high end cannabis accessories. When browsing through the beautifully designed website it feels as though you’re shopping for an art piece rather than cannabis accessories. Every product is uniquely designed and follows a lovely aesthetic and ‘celebrat[es] the new rituals of smoking through a lens of great design.’
As well as offering brands from other retail stores, Tetra manufactures their own products designed by up and coming designers. It’s not hard to see that Tetra’s focus on aesthetics transforms the cannabis experience into something rather beautiful.
It is time that the cannabis stigma be put to bed and there is so much promise of this. With the rise of brands aiming to end the stigma surrounding cannabis through producing beautifully designed stores, edibles and accessories, people will start to wake up and realise they have been hating something that provides so many benefits.