New Data Shows That Weed is Depicted in Pop Culture… A LOT!

We’ve all seen a TV show or movie or heard a song that refers to cannabis, but did you know that it is brought up in almost half of all U.S. R&B and hip-hop music? No, neither did we!

According to a recent study, there is now more mention of cannabis along with other substances such as opioids than ever before, but is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Historically, all mention of cannabis in pop culture has been of a similar vein, that is, the lazy stoner stereotype there for the laughs and nothing more. So with such a massive rise in cannabis references, are we to expect a new generation of cannabis-related judgment, or have things finally turned a corner?

Let’s take a look…

How is Cannabis Portrayed in Pop Culture?

Say the word cannabis to many, and the first thing they will think of is Cheech and Chong! It’s not their fault; we get it, after all, who doesn’t love the loveable duo that made cannabis so famous, albeit not necessarily for all the right reasons!

It’s undoubtedly no over-exaggeration to say that cannabis has been through the wringer over the years when it comes to media portrayal, music videos have featured smoke-filled clubs with half-dressed women and talk of sex, drugs, and violence – it’s hardly a good selling point for cannabis!

Cannabis portrayal isn’t all bad, but it has been heavily drilled into us over the decades that marijuana is just no good, and if you smoke it, you’re no good either. Past advocates have come under fire for their support of the plant, and even pop culture references have been silenced in the past. Yep, we’re talking about Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35” which makes reference to “everybody must get stoned” – this was banned on numerous radio stations during the year of 1966!

So, is it a good thing that there are now more cannabis mentions than ever, or is it merely a more modern way of bashing the plant and portraying it in an unrealistic and harmful light?

How Has Public Opinion on Cannabis Changed Over the Years?

Whether you’re a fan of cannabis or not, there is no denying that the flower has become widely more accepted over the years! In the past, there have been outright bans on marijuana, but in 2018 we can be thankful that 30 states have laws in place for legal use of the plant, with nine states allowing its use for recreational purposes – who’d have thought it!?

So is it possible that the growth in acceptance is a direct result of the increased references to cannabis in popular culture? Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Wayne believe it could be, with a correlation between a rise in references to not only marijuana but other drugs such as opioids tying in with the decade that the opioid trend kicked off. Is it possible that it is more than a coincidence?

Over the years, what we know about cannabis has undoubtedly grown, no longer restricted by a lack of knowledge more people than ever are aware of the benefits of the plant, particularly in the treatment of many medical conditions. As scientific evidence continues to be made common knowledge, it is understandable that more people are going to want to get their hands on the plant, not merely for its high but for everything else it has to offer, thus making a worthy counter-argument against those who believe cannabis’ popularity is solely down to pop culture references.

Overall it is clear to see that people have started to consider cannabis in a new light, no longer purely a means of getting high as a kite and eating the contents of your parents’ fridge (see, stereotypes!), it is now much more than that! Cannabis is now widely considered a natural medicine, a helpful anti-inflammatory, a way to relieve anxiety, a great product to use for healthy skin, and more!

What the Studies Show…

It is unclear really as to whether pop culture has the power to directly influence consumers to turn to cannabis or any other substance. When we consider the overwhelming scientific breakthroughs that have centered around the plant in recent years, it seems a much stronger argument for the switch in people’s attitudes. That being said, let’s see what the research shows:


  • Published in the journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, researchers sought to find a link between popular culture and U.S. drug trends.
  • Researchers examined the music of the Top 40 from 1989 through to 2016, and the results were pretty shocking:
    • The first ever marijuana mention was in 1989, but by 2016 more than 30 marijuana references where found, which came up more than any previous year, and was the most mentioned substance above any other.
    • The first pop culture reference to opioids including heroin and prescription pain meds was in the late 1990s, just in time for the start of the ongoing opioid crisis in America!


  • Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of Internal Medicine, researchers looked at the prevalence of regulated products that came up in popular culture, namely music videos.
  • Of all the videos reviewed, the researchers found that between 40-50% depicted either smoking or vaping cannabis or tobacco.
  • The study focused on the top 50 charts for both R&B and hip-hop music between 2013 and 2017, and of the 1250 songs they studied, a vast 769 of them had accompanying videos. The results were as follows:
    • In 2014, 44% of music videos depicted either cannabis or tobacco smoking or vaping
    • In 2015, it was 40%
    • In 2016, it was 50%
    • 2017 showed 47%
  • Perhaps the most significant finding from their research was that of all the music videos they looked at; results showed that the most popular were the ones which featured marijuana or tobacco consumption.
  • The researchers ultimately felt this had a direct correlation with the growing acceptance of marijuana.

Final Thoughts: So Weed is in Pop Culture, So What?

The research may have found that cannabis is much more prevalent in pop culture than it used to be, but so what? This doesn’t mean the end for the marijuana industry if anything it is merely an indicator of the growing acceptance and normalization of cannabis.

Let us know what you think about this in the comments – it’s certainly a conversation starter!

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