From the "Reefer Madness" propaganda of the early 20th century to the legalization of marijuana in Thailand and many other countries, cannabis has come a long way. But what led to this evolution? In this article, we'll explore the top five pop culture moments that helped turn marijuana from a demonized drug to a mainstream staple. Join us as we delve into the most influential moments in cannabis pop culture history.
In 1978, Cheech and Chong's "Up in Smoke" hit the big screen, sparking a cultural conversation about marijuana that had previously been suppressed by government authorities. The film tells the story of Anthony "Man" Stoner and Pedro de Pacas and their escapades while high. Due to its controversial nature, the movie had a difficult time finding traditional advertising outlets, leading to the innovative strategy of promoting it through comic strips on bus benches. This approach proved successful and helped turn the movie into a cult classic.
Our next stop on the cannabis pop culture journey is 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." This coming-of-age film, based on a true story, follows Jeff Spicoli as he navigates high school while perpetually stoned. One notable moment in the film's history is that a scene depicting a character dreaming of singing on the Tonight Show was cut because of the movie's drug content. However, as times have changed, it's clear that "Fast Times" was an important milestone in the cultural acceptance of marijuana.
In 1993, Matthew McConaughey starred in "Dazed and Confused," a stoner classic that celebrates the last day of high school in a small Texas town in 1976. Despite the studio's initial desire for the movie to receive a PG-13 rating, the film's frequent use of profanity and drug content made that impossible. While "Dazed and Confused" didn't achieve blockbuster success, its portrayal of marijuana has solidified its place in the pantheon of stoner films.
Moving into the late '90s and early 2000s, marijuana's role in pop culture continued to grow. This is evidenced by the popularity of films such as "Half Baked" and rapper Afroman's hit novelty track, "Because I Got High." "Half Baked," in particular, brought the conversation about marijuana to a more mainstream level, featuring appearances by such cultural icons as Snoop Dogg and Bob Saget. Despite its cult following, co-writer and actor Dave Chappelle has expressed some dissatisfaction with the final product, feeling that the original script was funnier and that the movie was marketed to a younger audience.