Outdated “Stoner” Stereotypes Have Got to Go

It’s estimated that over 30 million Americans partake in a little pot from time to time, but our newly confirmed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, would have you believe that “Good people don’t smoke weed.” That’s a whole lot of not-good people if you ask me. Seriously though, what is it about a little ganja that has this man jumping to coJeff Sessionsnclusions about 30 million Americans?

The truth is that, just like Tylenol or whiskey, a multitude of different people smoke weed for a multitude of reasons. Whether you’re a stiletto stoner, enjoying a little night cap after a vicious day of tapping on that glass ceiling, or a courageous cancer warrior just trying to ease the pain and nausea enough to make your day bearable, partaking in a little sweet leaf does not make you an inherently bad person.

So who are these not-good people who use cannabis on a regular basis?

According to The New York Post, they are everyone from teachers and high-power executives to stay at home moms and administrators. Here are five “bad hombre” stoner stereotypes that simply no longer apply.

Drug Addicts Looking For a Fix

Would you categorize everyone who had a glass of wine with dinner or the occasional cocktail as an alcoholic? No. So why do we classify everyone who partakes in an herbal side dish as a drug addict? Especially given its wide array of health benefits.

Did you know that marijuana is capable of addressing a wide variety of health concerns from insomnia and anxiety to multiple sclerosis and cancer?

The truth is, just like alcohol, there is a potential for addiction, but it’s relatively rare and usually linked to an underlying issue that predisposes one to addiction in the first place. In fact, only 9% of people who use weed heavily will grow dependent in their lifetime, as opposed to 15% of heavy cocaine users, and 24% of heroin users.

Losers and Dropouts

Cannabis users aren’t all Cheech and Chong wannabes. In fact, the list of substantially influential people who’ve inhaled and prevailed is pretty impressive.  Cheech and Chong, Stoner stereotypes From Clarence Thomas and Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, marijuana usage is certainly not a indication of one’s ability to succeed. Given the number of Americans who participate in extracurricular cannabis activities, you are very likely to be working with or for a “pothead.” Simply put, weed doesn’t make the person and we are imposing a dangerous stereotype by assuming it does.

Violent Criminals

Maya Angelou, Susan Sarandon, David Letterman, Morgan Freeman….these names strike fear in the hearts of none and yet, to quote Maya Angelou, they have smoked marijuana “with abandon.” The violence usually associated with weed stems from the failed “War on Drugs.” By imposing prohibition and forcing cannabis under ground, we’ve forced it into the shadows and recesses of a black market that operates outside of the realm of normal law and order, think alcohol and the mob circa 1925 . In fact, it is argued that weed is not the cause of violent behavior, but due to it’s prohibited status is just another “risky” behavior that criminals are drawn to. This only perpetuates the wildly inaccurate stereotype that weed equates to violence.

Lazy Bums

Michael Phelps has won 28 Olympic medals. Richard Branson has built a multi-billion dollar empire with a personal net worth of 5 billion dollars. John F Kennedy bravely led an entire country through civil rights reform. What do all of these hard-working, incredible role models have in common? Ganja!

From high powered executives to blue collar workers, marijuana is not a precursor to a lazy, unproductive life

In fact, Rick Steves, famed travel writer and PBS host, has managed to travel the entire world and become a well respected author and civic advocate all while responsibly enjoying recreational marijuana.

Unintelligent

Let’s put this one in perspective. Carl Sagan has a PhD in Astrophysics and Astronomy from the University of Chicago and published more than 600 scientific papers and worked on more than 20 books. He is responsible for co-writing “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” the TV series responsible for introducing over 500 million people in 60 different countries to the science behind our place in the universe. Steve Jobs, Stoner stereotypes Guess what? Sagan was an avid user and supporter of cannabis. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, any of these names ring a bell? They should! They are the movers and shakers behind the technologies that we use everyday, the very backbone of our digital world. If there was ever a stereotype that should be extinguished, the idea that marijuana users are somehow less intelligent should be shattered by the sheer existence of people like Sagan, Jobs, and Gates.

It’s Time For a PR Makeover

These stereotypes are outdated and fed by propaganda used only to perpetuate a prohibition that Americans are growing far too intelligent to continue to buy into. Sessions’ flat out oblivious and uneducated statement should be highly offensive to Americans.  Unfortunately, his perception goes much further than simply mislabeling over 30 million Americans as “not good people.” Sessions is quoted as saying this over marijuana legalization,

“Lives will be impacted, families will be broken up, children will be damaged because of the differences their parents have … because of marijuana. And people may be psychologically impacted for the rest of their lives … with marijuana.”

This is exactly why it is so important to continue to educate the populace with facts, not the propaganda we’ve been fed for almost a century. You can be a great person and use cannabis. The two are not mutually exclusive, contrary to Jeff Sessions’ warped world view.  It is not the responsible use of marijuana that impacts lives, but rather the unnecessary jailing and lifelong criminal record that accompanies criminalization of weed that ruins lives. It is the deep, irreversible scars changing a person who is incarcerated for the non-violent crime of possession that ruins lives. It’s the inability to make a legitimate living or find a decent place to live because of a simple joint that ruins lives.  It’s the disproportionately affected minority populations whose lives are ruined by selective enforcement of an unjust law.

I don’t know about you, but Sessions’ doesn’t get to decide who is a good person in my book. Each person, as an individual, with individual thoughts, contributions, and behaviors gets to decide that for themselves.

Amber Faust

About the author: Amber Faust is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in natural lifestyle pieces and sociopolitical commentary. Amber is a lifelong activist for social justice and environmental issues. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, painting, drumming, meditation, and yoga.