Let’s carry out a sociological experiment together. Close your eyes. Now, imagine a cannabis plant. Do you have it in your mind? Good. Next step, think about a bag full of marijuana—yes, a transparent bag full of ganja. Someone is opening that bag; s/he is getting ready to roll a joint. The hands move with precision, the person clearly know what s/he is doing. Slowly, you start to look up: who do you see?
Sure, the features of the face you see at the end of this mental journey clearly depend on your personal experience. On average, however, those who walk down this imaginative path find themselves looking at a young man, sitting on an old sofa as he rolls the joint with his dirty fingers. The man looks like a young anarchist who just came back from the 1999 Seattle WTO protests.
This image is the result of years of representations and discourses that turned marijuana into some kind of countercurrent, lower-middle class symbol: only young, troublesome, stinky young males smoke it. An exception, of course, is the old hippie… but that image is increasingly less fashionable than the “young anarchist”. Well, guess who smoked some pot this time around? Once you move past stereotypes and misconceptions, you suddenly discover a lot of people use cannabis, and many of them are not exactly young anarchists or old hippies.
We are talking about Obama, who famously said “When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point;” Brad Pitt, who stated “I was hiding out from the celebrity thing, I was smoking way too much [marijuana];” Morgan Freeman, who suggested “Never give up the ganja;” and Matt Damon who admitted “The first time I smoked was at home with my mother and step-father.”
The list is pretty long: Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, John Kerry, George Clooney, Bryan Cranston, just to mention a few.
Now: close your eyes… who do you see?