Twitch’s Budding Weed Stars Are Doing Their Best To Educate People, Whether Twitch Likes It Or Not
Twitch’s gardening section contains multitudes. Some people broadcast apple orchards. Others build birdhouses. Others play Stardew Valley. But at most times of the day, those streams are crowded out by one of the most instantly recognizable plants on earth: the seven-armed starfish, Beelzebub’s kale salad, other names I didn’t just make up. I speak, of course, about weed.
It is difficult not to joke on this, the hallowed day of 4/20 in the once-in-a-lifetime supernova that is the month of 4/20, but cannabis growing on Twitch is serious business. Many streamers have adopted a similar format: a camera on their plants—the number of which is generally limited to a small handful based on state and country laws—and lengthy streams of either cultivation and growth-related discussion or just the plants themselves. Some augment this with more personality-driven content like gaming, movie watching, or smoke sessions. A handful of these streams never end. Barring technical issues, they run 24/7. People show up in droves to watch this; the biggest cannabis streamers pull between 20 and 100+ concurrent viewers at any given moment. This, admittedly, is a far cry from the tens or hundreds of thousands who regularly show up to follow the cream of Twitch’s video game streamer crop, but it still totals out to thousands of people regularly watching cannabis streams on Twitch.
Why, though? Why do people take pleasure in watching grass grow? One of the biggest cannabis streamers, who goes by the handle PotQuest , says people used to show up to gawk at what they regarded as activities involving illicit drugs.
“There’s a major thing on Twitch with risky content—stuff that’s edgy,” PotQuest, who helps run a medicinal cannabis co-op in Riverside County, California, told Kotaku over a Discord voice call. “That’s where a lot of it was at first. There were a lot of folks that would enjoy seeing others getting high. I got that a lot. I’d get a lot of people who would ask me ‘Can you stop and smoke a dab?’ They love seeing that part, the inebriation.”
Just as some streamers get drunk and play games on Twitch, people have also taken to getting high and playing games to give their streams that all-important, viewer-drawing edge. To this day, some big-name streamers like Kaceytron joke about how they’re always high when they’re streaming. Most do not, however, regularly smoke on stream.
PotQuest said that in more recent years, a few factors led to the rise of streamers who focus mostly on cannabis growth and culture. For one, Twitch opened the floodgates to non-video game streamers, first with a monolithic IRL section in 2016, and then with a series of more focused sections in the following years. This meant that people could spotlight the plant itself instead of having their hands wrapped firmly around a controller for the majority of their streams. Around the same time, cannabis personalities on YouTube started to face pushback from the company, leading them to experiment with Twitch, which generally allows cannabis-related content as long as it’s legal in the state or country from which the streamer is operating and they don’t make any attempt to sell the cannabis. An emerging cannabis scene on Instagram grew the audience for cannabis streams even further, especially as personalities realized that Twitch afforded them opportunities for more elaborate camera setups and means of interacting with their communities.
Now people congregate around cannabis streamers on Twitch for a variety of reasons. It begins, said a cannabis streamer and author who goes by the handle Chef Anna , with curiosity.
“I think a lot of people never get to see the plants while they’re alive,” Chef Anna, who lives in Detroit, told Kotaku over the phone. “I know myself, my first time seeing a live marijuana plant, I had been smoking for years. I think that’s really the big thing about it: people being able to get more access and see those things, to then be able to grow and cultivate for themselves. And I think it’s more exciting to see exactly where your bud is coming from, how it was cultivated. It’s almost like watching a pet.”
Chef Anna has taken this idea and run with it, allowing viewers to sponsor specific plants, name them, and receive regular updates on their progress. “People get really invested in it,” he said. “They get to watch it grow from start to finish.”
The other big thing, said Canadian cannabis streamer The BudLab , is community. Some people tune in because they’re interested in learning lessons about how to grow their own plants from an accessible group of experts. Others just want to hang out. TheBudLab has embraced this, creating a 24/7 stream that requires professional broadcasting equipment and multiple computers to keep it from melting down. By running a broadcast that includes multiple different forms of programming like human-free overnight plant cams, “wake and bake” early day smoke sessions, chat-based minigames, and more traditional video game streams, TheBudLab has cultivated an audience that shows up even when he’s not around.
“I’m taking a space that I have and building what is essentially a high tech growing facility that I’ve learned [how to create] more or less from the chat here on Twitch,” TheBudLab told Kotaku over a Discord voice call, comparing the construction of a DIY growing setup to the process of building a gaming PC. “So I think there’s a lot of people who come because they realize that they share the same passion as we do. One thing we push on our stream is ‘Never smoke alone.’ Any time you feel down or want to have a break, there’s someone always in the chat.”
LillyPain , a New England-based streamer who was prescribed cannabis to offset severe seizures after more traditional medication failed, thinks the communal element is a byproduct of cannabis’ history as a heavily policed substance.
“I mean, look out in California,” she said to Kotaku over a Discord voice call. “The biggest grows you’re gonna see are all ‘grow ops,’ because the only way to grow massive amounts is to get so many med cards together that that’s what it is. They forced us to be communal. How many people had their first smoke from a friend who got it from a who got it from a friend in college or something?”Twitch’s gardening section contains multitudes. Some people broadcast apple orchards. Others build birdhouses. Others play Stardew Valley. But at most times of the day, those streams are crowded out by one of the most instantly recognizable plants on earth: the seven-armed starfish, Beelzebub’s kale salad, other names I didn’t just make up. I speak, of course, about weed. ]]>