Making our way from the 70’s into the 80’s the War on Drugs was at an all-time high. During this decade, America faced a huge drug hysteria started by the Reagans and incarceration rates skyrocketed as a result. You could be arrested for simply having a joint in your possession. This was the dawn of the ‘Just Say No’ era and famous D.A.R.E. program (depending on your age, you might remember this from school).
In 1989, 64% of the American population polled susceptibility to drugs was the number one problem in the country. As in, most people thought the threat of drug use was even worse than the problems brewing in the Middle East. Public perceptions of cannabis began flipping once the war started and some states started to decriminalize cannabis. However, Reagan’s Drug War continued to plow through the country affecting millions of individuals for low-level drug offenses.
Hip Hop was gaining popularity in a way it never had before. Styles were more creative, lyrics became more mainstream, and the new superstars were known for breaking boundaries while smoking LOTS of weed.
Artists like The Pharcyde, Afroman, and Snoop Dogg became household names and so did the popular plant they’d rap about. Dr. Dre released his album ‘The Chronic’ in 1992 and IT BLEW UP. Everyone from the suburbs to the streets were bumping his tracks. You couldn’t miss the iconic album cover (Dr. Dre’s face in the zig zag logo). Everyone found a way to connect to the real to life lyrics that chronicled what life was like living in LA, the movements in gang life, and his love for weed.
The cannabis sub-culture was transforming tremendously as songs like ‘I got 5 on it’ and ‘Hits from the Bong’ were consistently being played on the radio. It wasn’t uncommon to see Cypress Hill bring out a giant bong on stage and pass around huge 3-ounce joints. They flew the stoner flag high and celebrated every aspect of the plant.
Medical Cannabis Begins
In 1996, California made history by passing Proposition 215 (also known as the Compassionate Care Act). This was the first state to get the medical marijuana ball rolling and really paved the way for the rest of the country. In 1998 Oregon, Washington, and Alaska followed suit by legalizing medical marijuana through ballot measures. Then in 1999 the east coast caught on as Maine legalized medical marijuana. Once the legality issue started to sway, Americans became more curious and began to ask the question of why cannabis was illegal in the first place.