Leading up to 420’s 50th anniversary, we’ve shared moments from cannabis’ history with our friends at O.pen. Marijuana use, whether recreationally, creatively, or medically, polarized Americans and created heated activism both ‘for’ and ‘against.’ While we have a long way to go, cannabis has certainly become less demonized and more understood.
What are some pop culture moments that helped normalize marijuana?
How has cannabis influenced mainstream media?
What cannabis innovations contributed to its growing popularity?
If you want to learn even more about the history of cannabis in the United States, check out O.pen’s blog The History of 420 to follow the ‘highs’ and lows of marijuana’s history, as well some fun ways you can celebrate 420 at home this year.
Weed in Entertainment
By the 2000s, common media coverage regarding marijuana use and activism made the topic less taboo. Weed culture again found itself in the mainstream. For example, American rapper Afroman released the stoner anthem “Because I Got High,” which became so popular on the millennial downloading site Napster that he was signed to a record deal by Universal. Another example is That 70s Show , which had become popular by this time. While 70s was a sitcom centered on cooky family life and relationships, it often cheekily depicted marijuana consumption. In 2005, a different side of cannabis was shown when the TV show Weeds hit living room screens.
As the taboo surrounding cannabis lifted, more people opened up about their marijuana use (or curiousity), helping to normalize cannabis culture.
Everybody’s Doing It
At the turn of the new millenium, a number of celebrities came forward (or were “caught”) using cannabis. In 2003, Oscar winner Frances McDormand came out as a marijuana lover by gracing the cover of High Times magazine. Famous Olympian Michael Phelps was photographed smoking weed with a bong, which subsequently led to a loss of his deal with Kellog’s cereals and a three-month suspension from all swim competitions.
Perhaps most shocking of all, however, is a 2005 revelation by author Doug Wead. When interviewing his personal friend George W. Bush in the late 90s, the soon-to-be president, as much as, admitted to using marijuana, but that he didn’t want his children to follow his example.
George W. Bush was far from the only politician to try weed...some admitting with regret since they support anti-drug policies, others with pride while lobbying for legalization, and everyone in between.
By the 2010s, marijuana walked the fine line between illegality and popularity. Still on the fringe for mainstream America, a subtle yet steady shift towards normalization was discernible. In 2014, comedian Sarah Silverman shocked her interviewers on the Emmy Awards’ red carpet when showing them what she could fit in her tiny evening clutch...which included a cannabis vaporizer pen. “And this is my pot, my liquid pot,” Silverman said.
Besides adding to the list of ‘just another celebrity who uses weed,’ this brief exchange marked another, more significant advancement of marujuana: cannabis technology.
Cannabis Gets Techy
Until the early 2010s, cannabis users who wanted to inhale their high could either smoke in the traditional sense or smoke using a bong. Cannabis vaping was about to change that.
The vape cartridge was more than a different method of smoking weed; it was an entirely new way to consume cannabis. At that time, two main pain points of consuming cannabis convenience and discretion. At O.pen, we made our mission to solve those problems, so we began what became over 100,000 hours of research and development. As one of the first to create a cannabis vape cartridge, it took that long to figure out what worked (and what didn’t).
While it took a bit of work to develop the right vape pen, just the concept of cannabis in a cartridge was exciting. Chris Folkerts, CEO of GreenCo., told Vice Magazine about his very first puff on a vape. While it didn’t get him high, the experience was still "probably the most powerful moment" of his life. "Holy shit," Folkerts recalled thinking to himself. "This just f****** digitized weed."
Vaping cannabis quickly became popular because it was convenient, easy to use, gentler on the lungs than traditional smoking, and, of course, discretion. Cannabis vape pens produce little to no vapor and low odor. Also, the slim, pen shape is super discreet...you can even fit one in your evening handbag, as Sarah Silverman demonstrated. As extraction methods improved, so did the flavor and enjoyment of cannabis vape pens. Marijuana vape pens are the most popular of all processed cannabis products sold.
The cannabis industry exploded with new brands and new products, and by the end of the decade legal cannabis sales were estimated to be over $200 billion. The value of the industry itself is projected to over $50 billion over the next five years.
Cannabis’ thriving industry, groundbreaking medical research, and growing supporters who’ve come out of the “marijuana closet” have all helped open minds to its use. The number of medical marijuana patients continues to grow, with roughly 1.5% of the American population registered as medical marijuana patients.
To learn even more about the history of marijuana in the USA, check out O.pen’s blog, The History of 420 . Stay tuned for our final article in this series, when we share the real story behind ‘420’ and how all of cannabis’ history contributed to the meaning of this marijuana holiday.