Co-opting Rebellion: How Cannabis Normalization Reduces Youth Use

marijuana cannabis normalization reduces youth use teenagers rebellion

My own experience as a late bloomer may provide insight into why normalizing cannabis reduces it’s teenage appeal and usage.


My first memories of marijuana are from a very young age. I can remember being 3 or 4 and lying in bed as the smell of weed and music of Bad Company wafted into the room, further infuriating me over the fact that I wasn’t allowed to stay up and party with the adults. To this day whenever I hear anything from the Straight Shooter album, it feels like fun is about to break out.

What I gained by having party parents was a love of music that continues to this day. It took until I was eighteen, however, before I figured out how great the pot is, too.

When I was about six I was at my grandparents house having myself a treasure hunt in grandma’s junk drawer when I came across a pack of Zig Zags. I knew what they were, but there was one thing I didn’t understand so I asked my grandmother. “Is that Jesus?” As you can imagine, my family was very amused by this. Especially the stoned ones.

That is mostly what I remember about being a kid with stoner parents, being their entertainment. When it was time to flip the sobriety script, they sent me and my siblings outside to play while they blazed up. After awhile we were allowed to come back inside, and at that point, we became a source of amusement.

This afforded me opportunities to hone my comedic and musical performances, skills I would surely need when I realized the Paul Stanley (KISS) rockstar dreams my young mind saw as my future. They became an apt audience to whatever I had to showcase, but sometimes, I didn’t want to perform for them. Sometimes I just thought they were silly old stoner dorks that I needed to ditch immediately.

Which is pretty much how I came to see marijuana and it’s users. Sure, they liked good music and had totally awesome fish tanks, but they also seemed like dopey nimrods sometimes. It was hard for a kid that wanted to be a rockstar to imagine the benefits of feeling, acting and being a dopey nimrod on occasion. So I relegated stonerdom to boring adult shit that I would avoid to maintain my high cool factor.

I kept that attitude right up until the night before my high school graduation ceremony. That had not been a necessarily common achievement in my family, and even though I mostly did it as a strange act of rebellion, I felt good having reached the cultural recognition of adulthood it bestowed. And so while cruising gravel with my bff Clarke Wicked, a year older and recent stoner convert while in college, I was persuaded to try out becoming a dopey nimrod. And here I am today.

The normalization of marijuana in my environment made it unappealing to me. And in places like Colorado, where legal weed has meant lowered teen usage, this is likely what is happening. Normalization removes the edge required for rebellion. It makes the formerly cool completely boring and mundane. It is like putting a giant sticker that says “Mother Approved” with nutrition information on the forbidden fruit.

There are still going to be plenty of teens who try marijuana, but the reasons will change. And if those reasons are a well considered desire to explore ones own mind, that is far better than trying it out of spite.

Prohibition of anything is like putting a giant sign on the prohibited thing that says “FUN, COOL, SEXY!” Normalizing cannabis will undoubtedly have many side effects that may actually decrease use in certain demographics over time, namely teenagers seeking to define themselves through opposition and defiance.

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