Cannabis is moving into the mainstream, with fashion, films, TV and politicians acknowledging it's here to stay.
Marijuana's role on TV and in the movies is no surprise, says Robert Thompson, a professor of television and pop culture at the University of Syracuse S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. "The people who are making movies and television shows, from the scriptwriters to the director and the producers -- a very large chunk of those are probably people who grew up not only much more comfortable with marijuana's presence in society, but probably as consumers themselves of it.
"As a result," Thompson said, "it's almost switched with alcohol. Think back to Dean Martin and Foster Brooks -- their whole comedy act was the fact that they were in the bag -- that now is seen a lot less often. The stoner is the new drunk."
Shorter: "Hic!" has been replaced with "Duuuuuude...".
Did something happen between 2003, when Tommy Chong started a nine-month stint in federal prison for selling a mail-order water pipe, and the June THC Expo, when he stood signing autographs and shaking hands, barely a roach clip's throw from row upon row of swirling glass pipes, smoking devices with octopus-like tentacles, whirring motors and price tags as high as $800?
Some people point to the Obama administration as the biggest game-changer. "It was when [former President George W. Bush] and his boys were run out of office, that made the biggest difference," Chong said by phone near the end of the "Light Up America and Canada Tour" that reunited him with Cheech Marin.
Roberts cited the election as the tipping point as well. "The whole show teetered on who won the election," he said. "If McCain had won, I'd have never have put up my money. But Americans are no longer living in fear."
In addition, trend watcher Laermer points to a more subtle shift: aging baby boomers -- a generation famous for tuning in, turning on and dropping out -- who are keeping their party habits going into their golden years.
"It's hard to fathom that the fifty- and sixtysomethings would be against pot after all the pot they smoked," Laermer said, "Their kids would laugh them out of the room if they started telling them not to smoke pot."
And their grandkids...
Roberts, for one, is ready. He's already booked 50,000 square feet at the Los Angeles Convention Center for next year's THC Expo. It's going to happen April 23-25 -- right after the April 20 date that's become a kind of pot smokers' national holiday.
"They're happy to have us back," Roberts said. "They told me the food concessions sold $38,000 worth of food on the first day alone -- and that's more than they do in a whole week at the California Gift Show."
As an example of how people aren't afraid to talk about weed anymore, I offer this quote by Joe Klein - yes, that Joe Klein (I only call him 'Joke Line' when he's fuckin' up) - from an article about Ted Kennedy in Time magazine:
[...] But we talked again about that day soon after, and memorably so, since neither of us was sober. It was at a cocktail reception at Ethel Kennedy's home, for recipients of the Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, one of whom happened to be me. In celebration, before the ceremony, a Kennedy who shall remain nameless took me down to the barn for an intense herbal experience. When I returned to the house, there was Teddy — and it was immediately apparent that he was as shiffazed as I was stoned. We greeted each other like old comrades in arms, sat in a corner and talked... [...]
I rest my case. I like 'shiffazed' too.