[M]arijuana’s status as a pillar of counter culture, an outsider’s escape and a creative catalyst has seen its form, use, effects and aesthetic depicted in artworks, film and photography since the 1930s.
Beloved by anti-establishment hippies in the 1960s and 70s, weed developed a bad reputation amongst politicians, parents and the press almost as soon as it went mainstream in the ‘tune in, drop out’ era. The initial demonisation of weed smokers eventually yielded to the lovable, but insidious trope of the stoner (think Harold and Kumar) that cast anyone with a preference for dope over alcohol or other drugs as a hopeless, listless dude in a perpetual state of teenage disinterest and dishevelment. That image has been a steady fixture in mainstream cinema ever since.
From blatant propaganda, to lazy stereotypes and fetishisation, the popular culture and mainstream press representations of those who smoke cannabis has been narrow at best. The new era of cannabis decriminalisation and legalisation, though, has yielded a new wave of subcultural communities celebrating smoking and presenting a new face of weed smokers and the herb itself. Here’s a look back at visual representations of weed and its users over the decades.
1960s Exposé in Life Magazine