I think it’s safe to say that many of you reading this have probably smoked weed before, maybe even still do. And guess what? That’s totally cool. Smoking weed is normal, despite the plant being listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, alongside such substances as heroin, bath salts, and mescaline. Nearly 70% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and over 32 million Americans say they smoke regularly (numbers, by the way, that keep going up yearly). New York just became the 15th state in our nation to legalize recreational weed.
And yet, it takes a certain kind of person to become a public advocate of the plan, and perhaps even more so to be a podcaster who solely focuses on covering it. They are the snack eaters of Weed + Grub; the wine pundits of Wine & Weed; the multiple stock market analysts and business insider gurus on Ganjapreneur, Benzinga Cannabis Hour and Cannabis Tech Talks; Henry Zebrowski of The Last Podcast on the Left, whose podcast sold out herb grinders in no time and looks to be gearing to launch official podcast weed vapes sometime soon. And beyond the category of podcast creators, there are the “Weedarinos,” the weeded My Favorite Murder “murderinos” fans who congregate and bond over pot on Facebook. Whether they realize it or not, all these players make up a constituency that’s contributing to setting the record straight over decades of stigma attached to smoking weed. They’re all normalizing it.
One notable example of a podcast that’s been helping push this course correction is Great Moments in Weed History, a show that gives high history lessons while the hosts get high themselves. Rather than chasing the industry news beat, each episode sees David Bienenstock and Abdullah Saeed presenting listeners with a history lesson on a weed-smoking hero of the past. These heroes include, but are not limited to, John Lennon and his rally for John Sinclair, a political activist targeted by Michigan police who was sentenced to ten years of prison for passing two joints; Native American leader Alex White Plume and the harassment he received from the DEA for harvesting hemp crops on the Pine Ridge Reservation; and jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, who smoked a ton of weed and cited the plant as being influential to their music.
“We started our podcast after spending a decade working for major media companies and creating valuable properties, only to realize those companies ultimately don’t care about cannabis or even their own employees — except as a means to making money,” Bienenstock tells me. “So much about humanity’s 10,000-year love affair with cannabis has been actively suppressed by the government and the media. And the emergence of corporate cannabis as a byproduct of legalization brings its own kind of erasure. All of which means, there’s a wealth of incredible weed stories that people have either never heard before or know just the scantest details.”
“Being public about cannabis use within a cultural, social, or professional sphere definitely carries the risk of being unfairly judged,” Saeed tells me over email. “This type of thinking is beginning to subside, but there’s still people out there who would say [Bienenstock and I are] not ‘serious’ because we’re enthusiastic in our celebration of cannabis, or that we’re politically biased towards it just because we enjoy it ourselves. The fact of the matter is, we’re counteracting a culture that has been biased against weed for decades based on a complete lack of understanding, and that’s far more dangerous.”
Comedian Doug Benson has also been a major proponent for weed since discovering it in his late twenties and seems to have carved out an entire career around it. His video podcast Getting Doug with High was initially a product of JASH, a comedy network started by comedians Michael Cera, Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Sarah Silverman, and Reggie Watts, which aimed to provide professional comedy content on YouTube. Getting Doug With High was created after Benson pitched JASH head and producer Daniel Kellison a show in which he could smoke weed with guests and talk about weed-related things. According to Benson, the show’s intent is “to normalize recreational cannabis consumption and have a few laughs in the process.”
Nowadays, Getting Doug with High resides on Patreon as a Zoom-oriented show, but it remains relatively the same. The formula is straightforward: bring a celebrity or three onto the show, smoke a bunch of weed, and shoot the shit live at around 4:15 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Wednesdays — timed, obviously, to start blazing at exactly 4:20 p.m.
The show usually begins with the celebrities explaining their personal introductions to weed, but as you would expect, the hangouts often end in tangents, derailed conversation, and occasional quietness due to Benson and co. imbibing a little too much. Getting Doug with High gave performers like Aubrey Plaza, Natasha Leggero, and Michael Ian Black the opportunity to quietly admit to the public that they, too, smoke weed. It’s also an experience that brings a more humanizing aesthetic to the celebrity in question, capturing a casual hangout on film where they could comfortably smoke weed together in a small setting. Although, in the cases of Jack Black and Eric André, it also showed how smoking too much could trigger anxiety for some folks.
Celebrity or not, the stigma still exists for this privileged class. When asked about why certain celebrities would turn down doing his show, Benson said: “Some say they don’t want to do it because their family doesn’t know they get high. Others worried that they would lose work with a company, like Disney, if they were seen ‘doing drugs’ on the internet. I guess they’ve never heard of Snoop Dogg. But yeah, it seems to be less so every day, but there’s still a lot of stigma attached to cannabis use.”
Beyond the famous, there’s also a plethora of shows dedicated to normalizing weed on the ground level. Blunt Blowin’ Mama, for example, was started by host Shonitria Anthony to fight the stigma of cannabis-smoking mothers. “I just had a baby three months ago,” she says on the show’s first episode. “I’m [still] breast-feeding my baby boy, and I’m smoking a joint right now… It doesn’t make me a bad person. I know society has taught us what motherhood should look like, and I’m here to turn that shit on its head. This is what my version of motherhood looks like.”
Since the show’s debut, Anthony has spoken with numerous guests from college students to lovers in polyamorous relationships to other busy parents, all of whom smoke weed and appear on the show to help counter the social stigma that pot might make them lazy and generally unmotivated people. The conversations drift into spaces of relationships, love, education, and wellness, but the common denominator for everything remains the same: marijuana.
How to Do the Pot occupies a similar lane. Created by host April Pride, the show is exclusively aimed at educating women on the good green. Each episode is a short explainer on various topics catered to women who dabble in pot, from smoking for period pain relief to using cannabis to spice up sex life. There’s also cannabis advocate and former TV host Montel Williams, who’s been smoking daily since 1999 to relieve the symptoms of his chronic illness. His show, Let’s Be Blunt with Montel, sees the host speaking with medical workers, comedians, rappers, lawyers, and a plethora of other advocates on a weekly basis, unraveling what each professional does in their unique spaces and how marijuana has given them an added meaning to their respective crafts.
I list out all these podcasts to basically say: Hey, there’s a healthy spot for weed in the podcast world, and that’s pretty cool. Smokers don’t always have it so great, even if they’re not public facing or using for medical purposes — we can look at the recently fired teacher Allison Enright as a fresh example of this. But marijuana is nonetheless a helpful crutch for some creators in the industry and the center of attention for some great podcasts. To be a face of weed means to bear a social stigma by friends and family, not to mention the potential weight of a federal-level offense, according to our national policies. Marijuana still has potential to burn bridges.
But as Abdullah Saeed tells it, it’s better to have smoked and gotten high than not smoked at all. “As for the jobs we’ve sacrificed or the relationships we’ve forgone, if they weren’t going to tolerate our zeal for cannabis, we didn’t want them anyway. We’re doing what we want to do. When people who consume our content tell us the podcast makes them feel included, empowered, and emboldened to let their freak flag fly and tell the world ‘I love cannabis and I don’t give a damn what you think about it,’ then we know we’re doing our job.”