Updated: Aug 30
Will the cannabis culture be affected by 2020's dynamic environment?
The culture of cannabis involves a certain ethos that can be discerned from seed to experience. Such distinction goes beyond lifestyle behaviors and consumption preferences. At its core, the fundamental notion of the culture remains the same throughout the test of time: cannabis is good, useful, offers a plethora of benefits, and should be shared and enjoyed. Despite its modest foundation, the cannabis culture has deep roots and traditions. It is reflected in the way that its stakeholders share information and experiences, communicate ideas, implement creative business models, pay tribute to the arts, encourage diverse lifestyles, stay a breast with technology, seek justice, and foster science-based assertions. As cannabis moves closer toward being removed from the DEA’s controlled substances list, the culture will continue to evolve and include more people and complex elements.
But, what does the future holds post COVID19? Not only for our social fabric, but for community focused industries such as the cannabis space…
Let’s focus on the present moment to fathom the query that’s keeping some of us up at night: Will the behaviors and attitudes we’ve adopted to withstand the pandemic remain in place once the pandemic subsides? Could the shifts in our way of life due to the fight against Covid-19 pave the way for an unprecedented shift in the cannabis culture? If so, is this shift permanent?
There are a number of possible futures, all contingent up our society’s response to the end of the coronavirus and whether the changes implemented to contain the plague end with containment. The ideal scenario in my mind is that we identify the weaknesses in our socio-economic and socio-cultural systems, the devise a plan to create sustainable structures to strengthen them. I am sure some of you chuckled at that last sentence because is common sense, but not what one would expect our leaders to attempt.
Sarcasm aside, I think we can understand our situation — and what might lie in our future as cannabis stakeholders — by analyzing a few key elements: the big picture (cannabis market and its reaction to the pandemic) and the micro level (changes in traditions and cultural lifestyle within cannabis).
As far as the market goes, global cannabis consumption rose by over 60% in the last decade alone. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2018, over 40 million Americans reported using cannabis. Two-thirds of Americans favor cannabis legalization, reflecting a steady upturn in public support, based on the results of a September 2019 Pew Research Center survey.
Eleven states have legalized adult-use cannabis consumption and commercial operations and 33 states have implemented medical cannabis programs, while other states have decriminalized cannabis to varying degrees.
Fast forward back to 2020, in the eye of the COVID19 storm, cannabis was deemed an essential business in 8 states, consumption has risen, BUT passing the joint, one of the classic principles of the culture, has been put on pause until further notice. “As long as cultures have consumed cannabis, the practice of sharing a joint among friends has been a common social practice,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri wrote in a message posted on the organization’s blog. “But given what we know about COVID-19 and its transmission, it would be mindful during this time to halt this behavior.” The coronavirus is said to be transmitted through person-to-person contact and particles that remain in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes making it highly risky to share joints, glassware, vape pens or other devices used for cannabis consumption — or even to be within six feet from someone who coughs after smoking, vaping or dabbing.
Cannabis is a highly evolved plant which has proved to be resilient and adaptable, and despite a long global campaign against it, it grows both wild and cultivated in almost every country. The rich culture which serves as the backbone that holds the budding industry together has absorbed and exhibits all of these qualities when facing the worst kinds of obstacles. Its diverse purpose, ancient origins and tenacious history will continue to help it thrive through pandemics and crises. And so too will the cannabis lifestyle and culture survive this “glitch in the system” even if in the meantime we have to resort to bringing our own bongs to the cypher.