Cannabis culture

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Cannabis culture describes a social atmosphere or series of associated social behaviors that depends heavily upon cannabis consumption, particularly as an entheogen, recreational drug and medicine.

Historically cannabis has been used an entheogen to induce spiritual experiences – most notably in the Indian subcontinent since the Vedic period dating back to approximately 1500 BCE, but perhaps as far back as 2000 BCE.[1] Its entheogenic use was also recorded in Ancient China,[2] the Germanic peoples,[3] the Celts,[4] Ancient Central Asia,[5][6] and Africa.[7][8] In modern times, spiritual use of the drug is mostly associated with the Rastafari movement of Jamaica. Several Western subcultures have had marijuana consumption as an idiosyncratic feature, such as hippies, beatniks, hipsters (both the 1940s subculture and the contemporary subculture), ravers and hip hop.

Cannabis has now "evolved its own language, humour, etiquette, art, literature and music."[9] Nick Brownlee writes: "Perhaps because of its ancient mystical and spiritual roots, because of the psychotherapeutic effects of the drug and because it is illegal, even the very act of smoking a joint has deep symbolism."[9] However, the culture of cannabis as "the manifestation of introspection and bodily passivity" — which has generated a negative "slacker" stereotype around its consumers — is a relatively modern concept, as cannabis has been consumed in various forms for almost 5,000 years.[9]

The counterculture of the 1960s has been identified as the era that "sums up the glory years of modern cannabis culture," with the Woodstock Festival serving as "the pinnacle of the hippie revolution in the USA, and in many people's opinion the ultimate example of cannabis culture at work".[9] The influence of cannabis has encompassed holidays (most notably 4/20), cinema (such as the exploitation and stoner film genres), music (particularly jazz, reggae, psychedelia and rap music), and magazines including High Times and Cannabis Culture. Cannabis culture has also infiltrated chess culture, whereby the "Bongcloud Attack" denotes a highly risky opening sequence.

Social custom[edit]

Cannabis was once sold in clubs known as "Teapads" during Prohibition in the United States; jazz was usually played at these clubs. Cannabis use was often viewed to be of lower class and was disliked by many.[10] After the outlawing of cannabis, its consumption became covert. Decades later cannabis became once again tolerated by some regions' legislation. Customs have formed around the consumption of cannabis such as 420, named after the popular time of day to consume cannabis (4:20 p.m.)[11] and celebrated on April 20 (4/20). If consumed in a social setting it is encouraged to share cannabis with others.[12]

In the arts[edit]

As the psychoactive effects of cannabis include increased appreciation of the arts, including and especially music,[13][14] as well as increased creativity,[15] its influence and usefulness can be found in a variety of works. While coded names of cannabis appeared in music as early as the 1920s, such as Louis Armstrong's song, "Muggles," it wasn't until the 1960s and 70s when more artists began referencing it explicitly.[16] Songs famous for their cannabis-centric lyrics produced during this time include "Got to Get You into My Life" by The Beatles, "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" by Bob Dylan, and Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf."[17]

Today, countless artists, not constrained to any drug-culture-specific genre, have opened up about their substance consumption and how it has inspired their works.[18][19][20][21] Snoop Dogg's love of marijuana is very well known, having created his own line of weed, vaporizer pen, and website focusing on cannabis culture.[22] Willie Nelson, who owns a cannabis company called Willie's Reserve, has even said that smoking saved his life.[23] Other contemporary artists who have been vocal about their cannabis use include Miley Cyrus, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Zayn Malik, Wiz Khalifa, and Rihanna.[22]


Process of making bhang in a Sikh village in Punjab, India. On the Hindu and Sikh festival of colors called Holi, it is a customary addition to some intoxicating drinks.[24]

Cannabis — the plant that produces hemp and hashish — has been one of the most used psychoactive drugs in the world since the late 20th century, following only tobacco and alcohol in popularity.[25] According to Vera Rubin, the use of cannabis has been encompassed by two major cultural complexes over time: a continuous, traditional folk stream, and a more circumscribed, contemporary configuration.[26] The former involves both sacred and secular use, and is usually based on small-scale cultivation: the use of the plant for cordage, clothing, medicine, food, and a "general use as an euphoriant and symbol of fellowship."[26][27] The second stream of expansion of cannabis use encompasses "the use of hemp for commercial manufacturers utilizing large-scale cultivation primarily as a fiber for mercantile purposes"; but it is also linked to the search for psychedelic experiences (which can be traced back to the formation of the Parisian Club des Hashischins).[27]

Cannabis has been used in the ancient past in places such as ancient India, Romania, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.[28][6] It was often used as medicine or for hemp, its main route of consumption was smoking. In addition, the plant holds cultural significance in many Eurasian countries. Hemp is associated within cultural rituals like marriage, death, birth, healing, protection, and purification.[29] In some Eastern European folklore, hemp links a spirit to the afterlife.[29]

Over time the culture became more international and a general "cannabis culture" formed. The culture has been responsible for the genre of films known as stoner films, which has come to be accepted as a mainstream cinema movement.[30][31] In the United States the culture has also spawned its own celebrities (such as Tommy Chong and Terence McKenna), and magazines such as (Cannabis Culture and High Times).


Bhang eaters from India c. 1790. Bhang is an edible preparation of cannabis native to the Indian subcontinent. It has been used in food and drink as early as 1000 BCE by Hindus in ancient India.[32]

Cannabis is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent.[33] Cannabis is also known to have been used by the ancient Hindus of the Indian subcontinent thousands of years ago. The herb is called ganja (Sanskrit: गञ्जा, IAST: gañjā) or ganjika in Sanskrit and other modern Indo-Aryan languages.[34][35] Some scholars suggest that the ancient drug soma, mentioned in the Vedas, was cannabis, although this theory is disputed.[36]

A man smoking cannabis in Kolkata, India.

Today cannabis is often formed into bhang, which has become an integral part of tradition and custom in the Indian subcontinent. In some sections of rural India, people attribute various medicinal properties to the cannabis plant. If taken in proper quantity, bhang is believed to cure fever, dysentery, sunstroke, to clear phlegm, aid in digestion, appetite, cure speech imperfections and lisping, and give alertness to the body.[37]


A Rasta man holding cannabis.

By the 8th century, cannabis had been introduced by Arab traders to Central and Southern Africa, where it is known as "dagga"[38] and many Rastas say it is a part of their African culture that they are reclaiming.[39] It is sometimes also referred to as "the healing of the nation", a phrase adapted from Revelation 22:2.[40]

Alternatively, the migration of many thousands of Hindus and Muslims from British India to the Caribbean in the 20th century may have brought this culture to Jamaica. Many academics point to Indo-Caribbean origins for the ganja sacrament resulting from the importation of Indian migrant workers in a post-abolition Jamaican landscape. "Large scale use of ganja in Jamaica ... dated from the importation of indentured Indians...."(Campbell 110). Dreadlocked mystics Jata, often ascetic known as sadhus or Sufi Qalandars and Derwishes, have smoked cannabis from both chillums and coconut shell hookahs in South Asia since the ancient times. Also, the reference of "chalice" may be a transliteration of "jam-e-qalandar" (a term used by Sufi ascetics meaning 'bowl or cup of qalandar'). In South Asia, in addition to smoking, cannabis is often consumed as a drink known as bhang and most qalandars carry a large wooden pestle for that reason.[41]

Today the Jamaican religion Rastafari promotes cannabis use for religious use.

United States[edit]

Marijuana's history in American culture began during the Colonial Era. During this time, hemp was a critical crop, so colonial governments in Virginia and Massachusetts required land-owning farmers to grow marijuana for hemp-based products.[16] Two of the nation’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, were notable cultivators of hemp.[16] Another Colonial Era figure, John Adams, was a recreational user and wrote about hemp's mind-altering powers.[16]


Marijuana use was associated with the subculture, and during the 1950s, Aldous Huxley's 1954 book The Doors of Perception further influenced views on drugs. This would later influence the hippie movement.


Following in the footsteps of the Beatniks, many hippies used cannabis, considering it pleasurable and benign.[citation needed]


The term "Hipsters" define two cultural groups, the 1940s subculture dedicated to jazz, and the contemporary subculture today. Both are stereotyped as enjoying cannabis. In fact the early hipsters of the 1940s had many slang terms dedicated to the drug and its distribution.


A 420 holiday event in Santa Cruz, California.

Notable cannabis-related events have included the Cannabis Cup, Global Marijuana March, Hanfparade, High Times Medical Cannabis Cup, MardiGrass, Spannabis, and Tokers Bowl.

Annual events in the United States include the Boise Hempfest, Emerald Empire Hempfest, Freedom Rally, Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, Hash Bash, Missoula Hempfest, Moscow Hemp Fest, National Cannabis Festival, National Cannabis Summit, Olympia Hempfest, Portland Hempstalk Festival, Salem Hempfest, and Seattle Hempfest.


Media coverage of marijuana has progressed in recent history. Attention and coverage of the drug began in the 1930s when fabricated horror stories of its effects were used to scare the public and influence public opinion.[42] To push the negative connotations of marijuana even more, films such as Marihuana (1936) and Reefer Madness (1937) were created.[16]

Cannabis-related media include Cannabis Planet, High Times, Stoner TV and Weedtuber. Websites include Leafly, MassRoots, Merry Jane, Price of Weed, and Wikileaf.

The social game Pot Farm created "the largest cannabis community on earth", with 20 million unique players across its platforms and a 2011 figure of over 1 million users on Facebook.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Courtwright, David (2001). Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. Harvard Univ. Press. p. 39. ISBN 0-674-00458-2.
  2. ^ Joseph Needham and Gwei-djen Lu (1974). Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology; Part 2, Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Magisteries of Gold and Immortality. Cambridge University Press, p. 152
  3. ^ Rätsch, Christian (2003–2004). The Sacred Plants of our Ancestors. TYR: Myth—Culture Tradition. 2. ISBN 0-9720292-1-4.
  4. ^ Creighton, John (2000). Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain. Cambridge University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-521-77207-5.
  5. ^ Booth, Martin (2005). Cannabis: A History. Picador. p. 29. As the seeds of cannabis contain no psycho-active chemicals, it is believed the Scythians were actually casting cannabis flowers onto the stones.
  6. ^ a b "Lab work to identify 2,800-year-old mummy of shaman". People's Daily Online. 2006.
  7. ^ Dunhill, Alfred (1924). The Pipe Book. London: A & C Black.
  8. ^ Rubin, 1975. p.45
  9. ^ a b c d Brownlee, 2002. "01: Culture"
  10. ^ "Social History of Marijuana". August 17, 2012.
  11. ^ Ryan Grim (April 20, 2010). "420 Meaning: The True Story Of How April 20 Became 'Weed Day'". The Huffington Post.
  12. ^ "Tokers weed guidelines".
  13. ^ Osborne, Geraint B.; Fogel, Curtis (2009). "Understanding the Motivations for Recreational Marijuana Use Among Adult Canadians" (PDF). Substance Use & Misuse. 43 (3–4): 539–572. doi:10.1080/10826080701884911. PMID 18365950. S2CID 31053594. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. ^ "We Asked Some Experts Why Weed and Music Go So Well Together". Thump. April 21, 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  15. ^ "Cannabis and Creativity". Psychology Today. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  16. ^ a b c d e Hudak, John (2016). Marijuana: a Short History. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8157-2907-5. OCLC 958876698.
  17. ^ Bienstock, Richard; Reeves, Mosi; Garber-Paul, Elisabeth; Epstein, Dan (April 19, 2020). "Pot Sounds: The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  18. ^ "Beatles' Acid Test: How LSD Opened the Door to 'Revolver'". Rolling Stone. August 25, 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  19. ^ "Rihanna, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley and 6 of the most famous stoners in music history". Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  20. ^ Branco, Nelson (April 20, 2017). "Melissa Etheridge: From LGBT to O'Cannabiz". Toronto Sun. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  21. ^ "Sound Bathing With Sigur Rós and Their Lord Jones Edibles". Billboard. April 20, 2017. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  22. ^ a b Grimm, Beca (April 20, 2017). "50 Most Successful Marijuana Enthusiasts You Should Know". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  23. ^ Doyle, Patrick (April 29, 2019). "Willie Nelson: The High Life". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  24. ^ Ayyagari S (2007). ""Hori Hai": A Festival of Colours!! (review)". Asian Music. Johns Hopkins University Press. 38 (2): 151–153. doi:10.1353/amu.2007.0029. S2CID 192201145.
  25. ^ Rubin, 1975. p.1
  26. ^ a b Rubin, 1975. p.3
  27. ^ a b Rubin, 1975. p.4
  28. ^ Rudgley, Richard (1998). Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-85580-1.
  29. ^ a b Clarke, R., & Merlin, M. (2013). Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. University of California Press. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from
  30. ^ Peters, Jon. "top ten stoner movies". Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  31. ^ "top ten stoner movies". August 8, 2008. Retrieved March 15, 2013.
  32. ^ Staelens, Stefanie (March 10, 2015). "The Bhang Lassi Is How Hindus Drink Themselves High for Shiva". Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  33. ^ "Marijuana and the Cannabinoids", ElSohly (p. 8).
  34. ^ Leary, Timothy (1990). Tarcher & Putnam (ed.). Flashbacks. New York: GP Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-87477-870-0.
  35. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hemp" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 263.
  36. ^ Rudgley, Richard (1998). Little, Brown; et al. (eds.). The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances. ISBN 0-349-11127-8.
  37. ^ "Holi Festival". Tradition of Bhang
  38. ^ Hamid, The Ganjah Complex: Rastafari and Marijuana, introduction, p. xxxii.
  39. ^ Chanting Down Babylon, p. 130 ff.
  40. ^ Barry Chevannes, Rastafari and Other African-Caribbean Worldviews, pp. 35, 85; Edmonds, p. 52.
  41. ^ Bhang is often produced in large vessels at dargah gatherings known as "shaam-e-qalandar". During these gatherings large kettle drums known as naggara are played or alternatively, the Dhol. It is known as Qalandri dhamaal. Both groups, the Qalandar's and Sadhu's were lumped together by the British as faqeers. They are still frowned upon by the industrious population and are considered "dreadfull". Yet they are considered holy men by many. Both groups practice either some sort of chilla nashini or yoga in remote jungles, mountains or charnel grounds in which ganja aids to put a veil on the worldly and to transcend the various societal trends and pressures. It is also used to induce a state of euphoria and trance by some in conjunction with drumming, dance or whirling. Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana Through India, Jonah Blank, p. 89.
  42. ^ Stringer, R. J., & Maggard, S. R. (2016). Reefer Madness to Marijuana Legalization: Media Exposure and American Attitudes Toward Marijuana (1975–2012). Journal of Drug Issues, 46(4), 428–445.
  43. ^ "How A Video Game Created The World's Largest Weed Community". October 19, 2016. Archived from the original on April 12, 2020. Retrieved April 11, 2020.


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