Marijuana Policy Project
Curved Papers

'Stoner' Isn't a Dirty Word

Not far from the tree: This stoner expresses herself by smoking out of an apple pipe.

“We’re weeding out the stoners,” declares ganjapreneur Olivia Mannix in the New York Times article, "In Colorado, a Rebranding of Pot Inc.," posted Oct. 3. “We want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis.”

Mannix's comments have created a firestorm in the marijuana (oops, cannabis) community. Stoners came out swinging, feeling a powerful wave of prejudice against people, who according to most definitions, regularly use marijuana.

"I encourage you all to reject this statement as offensive and not support those who stomp on the pioneers of legalization," Tim Martin wrote on Facebook. "This doesn't even represent Colorado, much less the cannabis culture."

Cleaning up the stoner image of wanton smoking, tie-dyed t-shirts and long hair (on men) has long been a debate within the legalization ranks. For years it's popped up at NORML conferences, where colorful stoners sit side by side suited reformers. It's kind of like the gay community: buttoned-down vs. flamboyant. So why can't we embrace all kinds instead of attempt to alienate specific supporters?

The word "stoned" dates back to the Reefer Jazz era of the 1920s and '30s when being stone-drunk was to be positively inebriated. That crossed over to cannabis. 

Over the years, the word stoner was used to refer to a pothead and became increasingly more pejorative. Is stoner the equivalent of the n-word or the f-word to describe gays? Perhaps. But even if it is, it's not of our doing.

A stoner is a pothead is a cannabis user - all are the same. Society has attached the negative to the word, such in the definition, "One who is a delinquent or failure."

It's bad enough that society views marijuana users as losers. Colorado cannabusiness people such as Mannix, who co-founded the ad agency, Cannabrand, should know better. We need to be inclusive of all people who prefer pot to other mind-altering substances, not exclusive. Why cut off your nose to spite your face?

Update: One Colorado company, Mindful, has severed ties with Cannabrand. In a statement, CEO Meg Sanders explains: “We understand that these comments were hurtful and insulting to the industry and to the many that have fought so hard for years in the name of patient rights and safe access. We remain committed to serving our community, patients and customers with dignity and compassion.”

Cannabrand countered with the following statement: "In the recent NYT article there were several quotes that did not clearly convey our stance. Please let us clarify; We support everyone in the marijuana industry, and it’s unfortunate that those statements do not accurately portray Cannabrand or our community. Cannabrand’s mission is to broaden the cannabis consumer demographic and to welcome more people into this vibrant industry, which veteran cannabis leaders have readily established. We aim to further public acceptance of marijuana, in hopes that this will advance the ongoing support and legalization of cannabis."

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.