How will marijuana legalization change popular culture?

Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in a number of states, including my current place of residence (Washington). It’s probably no shocker since I’m a dirty liberal, but I’ll be voting in favor of legalization. It’s ludicrous that we have such tight regulations on a drug that’s less harmful that alcohol. Heaven forbid if some people want to sit around watching Blue Planet while eating ice cream! But even beyond that, it’s ridiculous how much money is wasted on the drug war, and how it disproportionately affects people of color.

Marijuana may not get legalized by states this year, and even if it does national laws still need to change. But it’s going to happen eventually, and I’m really curious how popular culture will change when it does. In Seattle, marijuana is de-criminalized, and I’m fascinated by how different the culture is here compared to Indiana. No one gives a fuck if you smell weed while walking down the street. Accomplished, productive people smoke, which totally destroyed the stereotypes I had grown up with about all pot smokers being lazy losers. Medical marijuana dispensaries are everywhere.

But how much more will culture change when it’s totally legal? Will pot smoking bars pop up along bars that serve alcohol? Will you be able to order a pot brownie for dessert at major chains just like you can order a beer? Will there be massive mediocre national brands (the Bud of Bud?) with local, pricier, artisan weed? Will there be specialized gourmet restaurants were every food item in infused with THC?

I’m honestly curious. When I’m 80 and telling small children “Back in my day, pot was illegal!” how shocked are they going to be? Is it going to be seen as a normal, integral part of culture by then, just like alcohol?

What do you think?

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  1. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I’m looking forward to it, because while I can’t afford it or risk it as a student, from what people have told me, low-level marijuana use might be beneficial. O.o

  2. karmakin says

    You kind of touched on the big change that I’d see, that is, I would expect to see “pot cafes” to slowly grow and overtake bars and pubs in terms of social get together spots.

  3. says

    Look at Amsterdam- it reflects the most likely situation America will find itself in post-legalization. Yes, there will be “pot cafés” alongside alcohol bars. You will be able to order pot brownies (and milkshakes, and all manner of other things) in places that have marijuana licenses. Additionally, there will be head shops in greater number and quality (read: less sketchy) than exist today. And life will go on.

    I think you might be a little optimistic on the “When I’m 80” timeframe, though.

  4. Sercee says

    It will just be awesome when people don’t risk destroying their lives because of a little high time. I’d like to see drug testing policies finally change, too. I’m not against the concept of drug testing for certain job environments, but the drug schedules and acceptable detection levels are seriously unrealistic.

  5. Keely says

    I’m not sure how this will work out… I think it really depends on the terms of legalization. If there is still this pretense that it’s only acceptable for ‘medicinal’ use, a lot of people will still feel uncomfortable doing it. Weed is obviously no big deal here in California, but it still has this stigma attached to it, and getting it ‘legally’ involves a doublespeak-filled charade that makes many people nervous.

    But putting that aside, and assuming that we just suddenly live in a world where pot is legal and easily available for recreational use… I do think it may become a bigger player in pop culture than it is currently, but it will never really displace alcohol. For one, alcohol is clearly deeply embedded in our culture, and pot being available won’t remove alcohol from long traditions quickly. But for two…while we equate alcohol and pot for legalization arguments as both mildish, pleasant psychoactives, there are are obviously differences in the subjective experiences they produce. And in my experience, a lot of people have a strong preference for one or the other, or see one as a regular-use drug and one for once in awhile. While I think a lot of people, including myself, would gladly take part in a pot-dominated culture of social drug use, I can’t say that those people would be in the majority.

  6. Zombie says

    The state initiative won’t change one letter of federal law, though, so the situation will still be legally hazardous.

  7. says

    Bill Cosby had an amusing prediction on what might happen at casinos after legalization:

    I hope they don’t legalize marijuana—I’m telling you the truth—’cause if they do they’re gonna have trouble out in that casino. I mean, you get about five dudes come in there and sit at the same blackjack table, and light up pipes? You know it’s going to get to the dealer. Guys will be sittin’ there and the dealer’ll say, ‘Whaddaya have,’ and the guy’ll say, ‘Fifty-four.’

    And the dealer’ll say, ‘That’s close enough.’

    And the guy’ll say, ‘But I want to go down for doubles.’

    (from For Adults Only)

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