We Asked Teens if They Think Weed Is Cool
"If you leave it in a fridge for a while."
Photo via Stocksy by Zoa Photo
"What do you get when you eat marijuana?" my young brother texted me the other day, not knowing that I was about to take on a most important pot-related story at work.
"What?" I asked, truly uncertain of what the answer might be.
"A pot belly," he replied.
This is the same person that, a few months back, I asked for a Snapchat tutorial because I couldn't figure out how to get the filters to work, or how to swap faces with anyone, and it was really pissing me off. I simply wanted to become a sepia-toned anthropomorphic cartoon version of myself, and maybe get a new Twitter avatar in the process, but trying to figure out Snapchat felt like trying to decipher the Rosetta Stone.
It was at the very same moment that my brother showed me how to turn a selfie of my face into a selfie of me as a dog with a giant tongue licking the screen that I had my first revelation: This person is not only an oracle of our time, but he also knows way more than I do.
I admit, I giggled at my little brother's weed-themed dad joke when it appeared on my phone, which immediately led to another revelation: I am no longer cool. At the time, I was alone, smoking out of my old-person pot paraphernalia, the Pax (maybe I was technically "vaping," since the Pax is, after all, a vaporizer, but it seems that when your cool goes, so does your knowledge of hip lingo).
The fact that we can make clothes, food, oil, etc. with marijuana is cool to me.
Those two revelations of mine could have been earth shattering, but after getting high, they actually helped me put the pieces of a very serious puzzle together: While liberal marijuana laws have been blazing the country, and attitudes towards pot are shifting in favor of both medical and recreational use, the Broadly team has long been wondering if weed is still "cool." The unsolicited pot joke made it clear that I had the perfect source right there at my fingertips.
"I'm high!" I wrote back to my brother. I liked the joke, but at the time, journalism seemed more important than congratulating him. "Is that cool?"
He didn't answer me. I wondered if I should change the language.
"Is that chill?" I asked, rephrasing the question. Again, he didn't respond. I figured he was busy Snapchatting, so was not deterred. I couldn't wait to go into the work the next day and update my colleagues.
And so began what might be my greatest journalistic inquiry yet.
Finding out if teens think weed is cool seemed like a great assignment, at first. I have baby brothers; I talk to teens all the time. How hard could it be to ask them a few questions about pot?
"Hey, this is Emma from Broadly," I texted one 16-year-old from Colorado, wanting to get a good sample of youth for my unscientific investigation into pot's cool factor. She had her read receipts on; I saw that she had seen my message at exactly 4:20 PM. I was unsure if she did this on purpose or not, but I decided that I liked her style already.
"Can I send it to you later?" she replied. "I still have school." The "it" was her insight into whether or not weed is cool, and why.
Right, I thought. The youths are in school.
By day two of researching for this story, my biggest takeaway was that a lot of young people are still in school, which is good. They also try to go to bed before midnight and don't like to text or respond to emails while in class. So, the middle of my work day not being the right time for texting teens, I tried another method. "Teenagers of Reddit, is weed cool?" I posed the question to all 100,000 plus members of the Internet's most popular forum—in the teenager subreddit, of course.
I waited. I refreshed. One upvote appeared. I refreshed again. Another upvote appeared.
Five minutes in, no young people had yet responded to my question, but I already felt accepted by their online community. How supportive these youths are, I thought. It was a good feeling, not unlike the feeling that smoking a fresh bowl of Maui Wowie—a classic sativa strain of marijuana known for its uplifting and energizing quality—gives me. Waiting for the Reddit replies to trickle in, I daydreamed a bit, thinking about the last time I had tasted the wow's pineapple notes lingering on my lips. I felt a phantom, heady high, remembering joints past, and giggled to myself. Is weed cool? I silently pondered the question.
When I snapped to it again, I remembered that, no longer being a teenager, what I think doesn't matter. Good thing more time had passed, and I was able to look to my teenaged Reddit comrades for guidance.
According to one clever commenter, samemint, weed is cool, "if you leave it in a fridge for a while."
"I'd call it dank," says MuzzyIzzetDoneYet (while it might be redundant to refer to something as both dank and cool, are the two mutually exclusive?).
The greatest insight into the minds the young commentariat, though, came from edogg3210: "Doing it to be 'cool' is actually uncool," they adroitly observed.
Doing it to be 'cool' is actually uncool.
"Someone should do it because they like the effects it has on them." This was the most popular answer, with 22 upvotes at the time of this writing, and a "Best answer here actually," from another internetting teen I know only as _Tibbles_.
"It's just a thing, I don't think it adds or subtracts from 'coolness,'" wrote padoozle, shrewdly. "That is how it is where I go to school," MasterofBananaz replied. "Nobody cares anymore." If only that were truly the case, I thought as I read this particular chain. Maybe then we'd stop sending people to prison for really stupid reasons that target communities of color. Despite the fact that blacks and whites use marijuana at about the same rate, blacks have been nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, but I digress.
Out of all the teens who replied to me on Reddit, only two explicitly said that weed is not cool—specifying that they meant to them, and not generally speaking ("Not to me," said one, and "to me, no," said the other). Percentage wise, taking all the upvotes into consideration, that is about 7 percent of respondents. So, while according to Redditing teens, weed isn't necessarily "cool," per se, it is decidedly not uncool.
The Reddit teens were certainly enlightening, but their answers weren't the most definitive, and I was glad to know that there was a whole crop of non-Internet teens that'd be ready to share their thoughts on the matter with me as soon as class let out.
"The fact that we can make clothes, food, oil, etc. with marijuana is cool to me," Reid, 17, from Ohio told me.
"I think it's awesome but I don't think people should do it just because they think it's cool or they think everyone else is doing it," says Jaclyn,19, from Pennsylvania.
"Honestly, I think weed is only cool if it doesn't make you lazy," 19-year-old Brennan, from New Jersey, told me. He describes himself as a daily smoker, and says he started when he was 15 because he "had an interest in drugs in general," which he attributes to movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Pineapple Express. He thinks weed is "pretty cool" after a long day at school, and "if you have your priorities in check."
While the replies vary, the similarities are apparent: Kids these days are open minded and, it seems, informed.
"Yes, teens think [marijuana] is cool," 16-year-old Sophia told me, before going on to explain how, in Colorado, it's easier to get than alcohol now because of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana in the state in 2012. Because of the access, she explained, she's observed more young people smoking pot than drinking alcohol. She thinks teens think it's cool "mostly because of how easy [it is to get] and how common it is in Colorado society."
Another Colorado teen, Larry, 17, told me that in addition to thinking weed is "pretty cool" because it "relaxes you and just makes you feel so chill," he also thinks weed is good for the economy, adding another cool pot point to his tally. "Since we legalized marijuana," he told me, "a lot of people have been coming here from different states [for access]." He's noticed a spike in rental properties as a result, and although he doesn't like that prices are going up, he believes it's ultimately a good thing.
And in case you were wondering, no, not every Colorado teen indulges. Sixteen-year old Ellie doesn't get high, and although she doesn't think it's cool, she believes that "whatever people decide to do with their life is their own." She says she "certainly doesn't judge" anyone who does smoke pot.
More than one young person told me weed was cool because it helped them with mental state. Chris, 18, from New Jersey, who thinks "weed is awesome," explained that pot "is very helpful with his social anxiety and depression," because it allows him to stop thinking about what everyone else is thinking by keeping him relaxed. That way, he says, he can focus on himself.
Tannar, a 16-year-old from Colorado, told me that "cool" wasn't exactly the right word to use to describe weed, so I asked him what word he thought was better. "I wouldn't know what word [to use] to describe it, honestly," he told me, adding that he's all for the legalization of marijuana. He continued, declaring his thoughts about weed in a sort of stream of consciousness flow, telling me that he thinks pot is safer than tobacco, alcohol, LSD, cocaine and "all the other crazy stuff kids are doing." He ended by telling me that if he had to pick a word to describe pot, it would probably be "responsibility."
"Wow," I replied. "I like that."
Yes, I got plenty of clever, detailed answers from the teens—some on the internet, some in real life, and a lot via text (texting is still very cool). The overwhelming consensus? Teens—those selfie taking, Kik loving, Snapchat gods and goddesses—contain multitudes. Just like the strains of weed they smoke, the youths are all different, and they bring independent understandings and ideas to the table. While most of the young people I talked to for this piece do partake, and do think weed is "cool" in some way, as one astute 18-year-old told me, "some people love it, some despise it." And that's just it. There's no hardline rule. And that the teens are OK with that? That might be the coolest of all.