lifestyle | 12.07.2018

Why the cannabis industry wants to get rid of the word "stoner"

Adrian Daniel Schramm


Sometimes used as a term of endearment (though often not), the word “stoner” has been in the American lexicon for decades. It is used to describe someone that smokes weed but, depending on the context, can include connotations of lethargy and a stupidity. It’s generally used interchangeably with the word “pothead”.

Regardless of your opinion on the term, the cannabis industry has made it very clear that they do not want the word to remain in common parlance.

MedMen leads the charge with expensive campaign

Earlier this year, high-end cannabis enterprise MedMen started running a $2 million campaign to rid the word “stoner” from common language.

“That word can be used to negatively stereotype people,” said Daniel Yi to the LA Times. “We want to take that stigma away. We want to make marijuana mainstream.” Yi is senior vice president of communications at MedMen which operates 14 retail pot stores.

Because, at the end of the day, perception is important:

"Stoners" are a common piece of pop culture - a necessary role in teen films and movies, an archetype that is usually one of lovable goofiness. Think of the character Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, in 1982's cult classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

It was never a derogatory term, at least not among the "juveniles" with whom they had contact - but it was, and still is, used by parents, teachers, pastors, police, and other adult authority figures almost every time something to be ashamed of.

What the cannabis industry is trying to get at is that people who look down their noses at marijuana use terms like “stoner” and “pothead” to describe an outgroup that they do not belong to and do not wish to be associated with. A group of fringe drug users who are not, and could never be, a part of "normal" culture.

That is the core of this campaign.

We don’t call someone who enjoys a beer or two, while an otherwise responsible and productive member of society, a “boozer." And someone who, for all intents and purposes, is identical to this drinker example, but prefers to smoke marijuana instead, shouldn’t be subjected to the term “stoner" then, in the same stroke.

Though, we would be remiss if we didn’t add that there are, and will continue to be, individuals who fall into those categories. But, as Kierkegaard said, "Once you label me you negate me," and by dismissing those who engage in these generally harmless, often helpful, acts we take away their presence.

Other slang terms on the chopping block?

The efforts to stop people from using the word “stoner” is part of a larger effort to legitimize marijuana - some industry members don’t even like the word “marijuana” and would prefer to use the word “cannabis” instead.

“When we’re talking to media, they will use every other word. They’ll use the M [marijuana] word, the P [pot] word. Lots of other words. And they don’t use slang words when they talk about alcohol,” he told a CBS News correspondent. “You know, you don’t interview a CEO of an alcohol company and say, ‘So let’s talk about booze,’ or ‘Let’s talk about hooch.’ ‘Tell me about firewater.’”

Although it might seem overly sensitive to worry about such things - as not many people appear to be offended by the term - it's also clear why the marijuana industry would like to shed itself of such terminology.

And, if it helps the cause of legalizing cannabis nationwide, all the better.

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