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white girls and weed

How Weed Became a White Girl Thing

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Her tone is glib, though she is clearly educated. She flexes a strong hashtag game, an eye for minimalist design. She is a beginner at reading tarot. She has opinions about Drake’s new album Views. She can paint a perfect cat-eye while high as fuck. She doesn’t fit the mold of the 1990s-era Spencers Gifts pothead, or the one the War on Drugs invented. She is a newish human iteration: She’s the beta stoner.

When “Broad City” emerged in 2014, it was lauded in part because characters Abbi and Ilana smoked weed frequently, but in a functioning way. It showed marijuana’s growth in one corner of society, where young white women held down jobs and personal relationships, getting high often without completely going up in smoke.

Alanna Vanacore, a 28-year-old white visual artist who lives in Brooklyn, is of this breed. She’s used marijuana for more than 10 years in some capacity. A clean, platinum bob sprouts from the top of her head, framing her face—not a mass of oily, matted hair. She says she smokes or uses a vaporizer a few times a week, usually to prep for painting or to deal with anxiety. She sleeps under a luxurious feather down comforter, tucked in an immaculate white slip. She doesn’t own one piece of tie-dyed clothing. The woman hustles, too, working a part-time administrative job in addition to selling her own work and producing shows to help peddle it.

There isn’t much in the way of an official census in regards to how many women in the U.S. use marijuana now, before, or ever, really. But if recent, frenzied media coverage (and legislative changes) are any indication, more and more women are sparking up. A boyfriend or male companion isn’t imperative to the equation. Instead, I’ve noticed more women around me attaining their own herb, and as their profile is growing they’re getting their own Instagram-ready products, too, like cutesy printed rolling papers and gold-dipped one-hitters.

On one hand, the feminization of weed can be seen as empowering—stripping the culture of its once hyper-masculine, Cheech & Chong presumptions. But there’s an inherent whiteness to this new breed . Although the state of New York still deems marijuana largely illegal , Vanacore and the girls in “Broad City” don’t run a huge risk carrying a spliff’s worth of herb or less. Almost two years ago, the New York Police Department adopted a new policy that limited low-level marijuana charges to writing tickets. But more importantly, as the American Civil Liberties Union has found, black people are almost four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. So even as weed-smoking becomes a casual, female activity, the question of who gets to visibly participate in the culture still often breaks down along racial lines.

Missy Elliott , no matter that she’s one of the greatest hustlers of our time , is still remembered for Passing that Dutch. Rihanna’s marijuana use, obsessively catalogued by fans, is referred to by media outlets as part of a party-girl behavior that’s unhinged . In other words: Everyone loves the lady-stoner, just as long as she’s white.

The ‘90s were “more of drug rugs and dreads,” says Krystal Visions, a 32-year-old visual artist and Jill-of-all-creative-trades in Atlanta, Georgia. “It was more like, ‘That guy who smoked a lot of weed.’ Now it’s like, ‘Oh that girl is really cute and trendy and seems like she’s really fun and into herself. She also admits that she smokes weed.’” Visions is among the latter, balancing a part-time job serving with an event planning business, creating her own art, and running a burgeoning tarot-reading gig, among other ventures. She, too, admits that she smokes weed and freely references it on social media, posting stylized stoner pics to her Instagram.

But Ashley (not her real name), a 24-year-old black woman in Atlanta, says in part it’s her race that keeps her quiet about her marijuana use and fuels her wishes to remain anonymous in this piece. Her Ghanaian immigrant parents and their staunch expectations also have something to do with it, too. “The first person I actually smoked with was my [older] brother,” she says, who was in college at Emory at the time.

By the time Ashley got to college herself, she regularly got high with a white roommate who came from a wealthy family. The roommate always pushed to go on stoned grocery shopping trips at the store near their apartment. Although uncomfortable, Ashley obliged once or twice. She says while her roommate remained chill, Ashley’s own anxiety spiked. “Because she’s a young white girl from an upper-class suburb of mostly young white people, she feels like she has that freedom,” Ashley says. “But I’m a black kid, what if I get in trouble? It’s not going be the same.’”

The paranoia from smoking too much weed mixed with a legit, standing fear for her safety in a systemically oppressive legal system, Ashley says, felt debilitating. She added that if they’d ever gotten in trouble for marijuana, her roommate’s parents could easily bail her out; Ashley, however, would be stuck to clean up her own mess.

There’s a long history of such double standards in America, particularly when it comes to drugs. See vocalist and jazz musician Billie Holiday, who was notorious for indulging in a number of vices, among them weed. Following Prohibition, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics zeroed in on her and other black artists’ affinity for marijuana, envisioning a “national round-up arrest for all such persons on a single day.” The results were devastating for Holiday.

But by 1977, Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall, an educated, progressive white woman, could insist to a partner that smoking weed improved sex. To this, her white male lover, Alvy Singer, referenced the idea that “grass” was supposed to “make a white woman more like Billie Holiday.”

The overarching theme for white women using weed tends to be of rebellion or some semblance of edginess. As a symbol of outgrowing a picture-perfect prom queen persona, a very girly Molly Ringwald took a long drag from a joint in the library in 1985’s Breakfast Club. 1997 saw a bikini-clad, bleach-blond Bridget Fonda ripping off a bong , reclined on a couch in Jackie Brown, explaining she’s mostly down “to get high and watch TV.” Fonda’s portrayal fed more into the burnout trope: a bright, young thing with luster dimming thanks to weed scorching her brains and ambition.

Her tone is glib, though she is clearly educated. She flexes a strong hashtag game, an eye for minimalist design. She is a beginner at reading tarot. She has opinions about Drake’s new album Views. She can paint a perfect cat-eye while high as fuck. She doesn’t fit the mold of the 1990s-era Spencers Gifts pothead, or the one the War on Drugs invented. She is a newish human iteration: She’s the beta stoner.

Pyongyang Green

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Episode cast overview:
Kathy Bates . Ruth Whitefeather Feldman
Aaron Moten . Travis
Elizabeth Alderfer . Olivia
Tone Bell . Carter
Elizabeth Ho . Jenny
Dougie Baldwin . Pete
Betsy Sodaro . Dabby
Chris Redd . Dank
Kate Miner . Tina
Rob Norton . Jake
Tara Sands . Plants (voice)
April Hong . Sadie (voice)
Rene Mujica . Narrator (voice)
Corey Jones . Unnamed Soldier (voice)

Storyline

Carter asks Ruth for advice. Jenny tells Pete the truth about the weed. Travis takes his new girlfriend to the store, what Olivia displeases.

Directed by Rhiannon O’Harra. With Kathy Bates, Aaron Moten, Elizabeth Alderfer, Tone Bell. Carter asks Ruth for advice. Jenny tells Pete the truth about the weed. Travis takes his new girlfriend to the store, what Olivia displeases.