The Stoner Stereotype: Breaking Down the Misconceptions

A man with hoodie, sunglasses and knife smoking a cigarette

Despite the increasing popularity and acceptance of cannabis in mainstream Western culture, the outdated and inaccurate stereotype of the ‘stoner’ persists in the media, in political discourse, and in the minds of a large chunk of the population.

Media attitudes to cannabis use have become less spiteful, but intolerance and misconceptions remain.

You’d think that in a world where cannabis is slowly becoming part of many nations’ paradigm, that we would have shed the stoner stereotype by now. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. The reason for this stereotype is, at the core of it, a huge miseducation in what marijuana is and how it affects the human body and brain.

Mainstream media has left a solid footprint in the minds of many about the implications of using marijuana and its impact on society – and that footprint definitely isn’t positive.

As cannabis becomes legal around the world, it’s important to move on from the stereotype. In a globe where the ideologies and values are shifting as much as they are, it’s time for the modern person to adapt to the new world order – which abandons the idea of prohibition.

What is the stoner stereotype?

This cartoon neatly points out the many misconceptions about cannabis use:

Cartoon about the cannabis misconceptions

The ‘stoner’ is lazy, unmotivated, greedy, dirty, and generally unpleasant. The ‘stoner’ is often black, Hispanic, or if white, labelled ‘trash’ to distinguish them from the white establishment. The ‘stoner’ is therefore incompatible with middle-class, white society. The ‘stoner’ has no aspirations in life save to eat junk food and play video games, and will never be seen to head a Fortune 500 company, take regular exercise or raise well-balanced children.

As well as this, the ‘stoner’ is callously and selfishly perpetuating the War on Drugs by purchasing their supply from violent, criminal gangs and cartels. In Europe, where Mexican cartels and Drug War rhetoric hold less sway, cannabis users are often accused of supporting Islamic terrorists through purchasing cannabis.

Consumers do not perpetuate the War on Drugs

Whether or not international drug traffickers fund militant organisations, the end-user cannot reasonably be held accountable. The illegal status of cannabis and other narcotics causes artificially high profits for black-market operatives, some of which may then be channelled into other illegal activities, but the average consumer of cannabis has no desire for blood to be spilt, or for cannabis to be illegal at all.

The true perpetrators of the War on Drugs are the authorities that refuse to meet the problem head-on and legislate effectively, rather than the end-users. What we observe is that in places where cannabis is decriminalized or even legalized, there is less (organized) crime.

The ‘stoner’ stereotype is pervasive in the media

The Daily Mail still stands under the “Reefer Madness” banner.

Front page of the Daily Mail newspapers

Back in 2012, the Huffington Post quoted Robert Dupont (Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) from 1973 to 1978 and drugs “czar” under Nixon and Ford from 1973 to 1977) as stating that cannabis “makes people stupid and lazy”. While it could be argued that Dupont represents an outmoded viewpoint that is decreasingly popular in society, the influence of such establishment thinking persists, and is still very strong.

There are many world leaders who continue to perpetuate the misinformed stoner stereotype. Jeff Sessions, the former Attorney General of the USA said, “good people don’t smoke marijuana”. Even if the media has stepped away from “Reefer Madness” style propaganda, there are still influential political leaders who have power over public opinion.

Reefer madness propaganda poster

While the mainstream media steers away from blatant misrepresentation of ‘stoners’ (at least since the tide of public opinion shifted generally in favour of legalisation), subtle hints and reminders of residual bigotry remain. This is the case even in societies that are generally liberal and pro-legalisation, such as the Netherlands.

4 Influential Stoners Who Changed The World

One of the best ways to destroy the stoner stereotype is to give examples. There is another kind of cannabis user who doesn’t live and breathe Doritos and video games. In fact, there are many of them, some of which who have led extremely successful lives and even changed the world.

1. Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan is one of the most prolific writers of the 21st century. For those who don’t know, he is the creator of “Cosmos”, the television show that explores the laws of nature and the entire cosmos. It is a piece of creative genius, designed to trigger the discerning mind of all individuals.

The most well-known expression of Carl Sagan’s relationship with weed occurs in an article he wrote under the pseudonym, Mr X. At the time, Carl Sagan didn’t want to be public about his opinions about cannabis, but later admitted to writing the paper.

He talks about his experiences with cannabis and how it helped him to enter states of mind that triggered creativity and expression. He says that essentially, it helped him to see people in a different way and the ways in which that enhanced his writing was invaluable. You can read the whole article here.

Carl Sagan also gave a speech on public radio advocating for the legalization of cannabis, especially for those who could benefit from its medicinal properties.

2. Steve Jobs

While Steve Jobs wasn’t a regular cannabis user, he advocated for its use. The creator of Apple was open about smoking marijuana in the past. And when you think about it, that was a pretty courageous thing to do for a CEO of a public company the size of Apple at the time. In fact, while we are on the topic of stereotypes, the man didn’t even finish college. It just comes to show that success is not linked to smoking cannabis or even finishing school. That, too, is just a stereotype.

3. Bob Marley

Everybody knows him and almost everybody loves his music. Bob Marley belonged to the Rastafarian religion, where cannabis is considered a sacred plant because of its magical, consciousness altering abilities.

Even people who never used cannabis fell in love with Bob Marley’s reggae beats and soulful voice. It’s safe to say that Bob Marley’s music changed the world and brought people closer to their true nature. Even when he sang about cannabis, he reached the hearts of so many different kinds of people.

4. Joe Rogan

Everybody remembers the guy who hosed Who Dares Wins. Yep. That’s Joe Rogan. Stand-up comedian and host of the Joe Rogan Podcast, he is one of the biggest advocates for cannabis all around the world.

He isn’t just famous for his media presence either. He is extremely intelligent, well-spoken and very articulate on matters of philosophy, politics and social justice. He has hosted the likes of Jordan Peterson, Jay Leno, Bill Burr and even Anthony Bourdain. That’s not a guest list for a simple stoner who loves to spend time playing video games, is it?

It’s worth mentioning that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla got to smoke a joint live on the podcast. Joe Rogan has a way of getting everybody to jump ship, even the most unsuspecting of guests!

A stereotype is just… a stereotype

At the base of it, a stereotype is an extremely generalized opinion about a certain demographic, where the people who make up the generalization are usually few and far between compared to the rest of the demographic. Humans stereotype all kinds of demographics, from the stereotype pot head to the stereotype woman to the stereotype Christian evangelist.

And at the end of the day, a stereotype is just a stereotype. It represents a very small percentage of the whole story. Sure, there are cannabis users who like to spend days in front of the computer screen playing video games. But there are also many cannabis users who go on to write the world’s greatest books and films, who record the world’s greatest podcasts and who initiate the world’s greatest movements.

Shedding the stereotype actually gives society a chance to move forward with the change of cannabis legalization and to incorporate it into society in a positive way. Greater education and understanding of marijuana is a step forward in the right direction, and as the cannabis movement continues to grow, the stereotype should drop away.

  • Disclaimer:
    Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.


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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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