Weed Words

A 4/20 Special: Reclaiming the Word ‘Stoner’

Episode 185

Show Notes

Exploring the Evolving Definition of the Word ‘Stoner'

Today we are celebrating one of our favorite holidays with an episode all about the word stoner! Through listener feedback and expert insights, we explore the many meanings and connotations of the word — from its negative origins to its evolving definition as a term of pride for cannabis enthusiasts. We’ll also highlight the important role that cannabis has played in many women’s lives, from improving mental and physical health to enhancing creativity and joy. Whether you identify as a stoner or not, this episode offers a thought-provoking exploration of the intersection of language, culture, and cannabis.

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Podcast Guests



Ellen Scanlon (00:00):

This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over. If you live in the Bay Area or are visiting San Francisco, check out Mary Modern, a dispensary for women and those who love them in the Laurel Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Welcome to How To Do The Pot, a podcast that helps you feel confident about cannabis. I’m Ellen Scanlon.


Today’s episode is part of our series called Weed Words, where we pick a tricky telling or provoking term, or sometimes it’s a funny, fictitious, or factual phrase, and we explore all the ins and outs of that weed word so that you can do the pot with confidence. This is a pretty special week for people who love weed. Not an official holiday yet, but 4/20 is the high holiday that takes place every year on April 20th. The term 4/20 was coined in the 1970s and has grown into a worldwide celebration of cannabis culture. There is definitely a cause for celebration because right now in April 2023, there are 21 states in the US that allow adult use of cannabis, which means anyone over 21, and medical use is allowed in 39 states.


As exciting as the progress of legalization is, it’s equally important to talk about the 40,000 people that are still in prison in the US for cannabis crimes. And did you know that while Black and white people consume cannabis at the same rates, Black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis. And still today, according to the nonprofit Last Prisoner Project, every 90 seconds, someone in this country is arrested for cannabis. 4/20, for me, is also a day to be grateful for the cannabis advocates who have worked so hard for legalization.


They faced a lot of stigma and judgment, which might all be wrapped up in today’s weed word. It’s a word that carries a lot of cultural weight. The word is stoner. Maybe you use it as a way to describe yourself or as a way to describe what you are not. We asked around, did a few Instagram polls and thank you to everyone who participated. We heard a lot of mixed feelings about the word, and I think it’s because as our individual and collective relationship with cannabis evolves, so does our relationship with the word stoner.


We asked the How To Do The Pot community if you have ever been called a stoner before. More than 2/3 of you answered yes. Then we asked if you felt that the word stoner was negative. Again, more than 2/3 of you answered yes. But these two questions weren’t the full story. Hopefully, you know our DMs are always open, and a lot of you shared what the word stoner means to you. Your definitions were so good. We reached back out and asked if you would be willing to have them on the show. Here’s what our listeners had to say.

Speaker 2 (04:07):

I don’t take being called a stoner in a negative way because I am a stoner, and to me, a stoner is someone who just loves smoking weed in the morning before work, after work, before the grocery store, even someone who knows how to balance it throughout their day, I guess, but they just love smoking weed.

Speaker 3 (04:31):

Being a stoner means using cannabis in your daily life and appreciating all that cannabis has to offer.

Speaker 4 (04:38):

People associate the term stoner with laziness or lack of motivation, perhaps someone that sits around all day without a job and mooches off their family and friends. But I think the term itself is probably 50-years-old and the new generation of cannabis consumers probably don’t even consider themselves stoners. I think the new generation can use cannabis and go be productive at work or have a great gym session, do activities with friends and families, and it’s perfectly normal.

Speaker 5 (05:12):

It’s supposed to have this negative connotation, but every stoner that I’ve met is amazing.

Ellen Scanlon (05:20):

So what makes a stoner a stoner? Is it how frequently you consume? Whether that’s once a week, every day, or multiple times a day, or maybe it has to do with the time of day. Do you wake up and smoke first thing, have a little in the afternoon, or only try it at night? Are you a stoner when you show signs of having consumed cannabis, things like bloodshot eyes, smelling like weed, or having a ravenous case of the munchies? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a stoner is “a person who regularly takes drugs, especially marijuana.”


So if you’ve listened to our weed words episode where we tackle the complex history of the word marijuana, you’ll understand how this in itself is already a complicated definition. But how did we get here? After this break, I’ll fill you in.


I’ve lived in San Francisco for more than a decade, and for a long time I was a very happy online shopper. But since COVID, I just want to physically go to a store to buy something. And one of my favorite things to go and buy in San Francisco is weed. Last week I visited Mary Modern, a new dispensary for women and those who love them. Mary Modern has everything I love about a cannabis shopping trip. It is really fun to step into a beautiful store with knowledgeable, enthusiastic women working there who really want to help you find a product that you will love.


Everything about Mary Modern feels like a comfortable experience from the female security guard to the staff of all different ages. It’s beautiful, it’s well lit, and you can walk around and touch, feel, and even smell the products. If you live in the Bay Area or are visiting San Francisco, put this shop on your list. They carry some of my favorite brands. Half the products on the shelves are women owned, 20% queer owned, and nearly 20% equity owned. Bring your friends or your family. If they’ve never bought legal weed, this will be a terrific first time story.


Mary Modern is now open every day from 10 to nine, or you can order at marymodern.com and pick up in store. It’s located in San Francisco at 2845 Gary Boulevard. Mary Modern is giving a special discount of 20% off if you mention How To Do The Pot, I’m so excited for you to check it out, and the link in the show notes has all the details.


The phrase stone drunk became popular in the 1920s during prohibition. It was synonymous with words like smashed or bombed, which were used to describe a wild night. Stone drunk was then a way to describe people who looked battered, worn, beaten, almost like they’d been stoned in the capital punishment sense of the word. While it’s not exactly clear when the slang word stoned switched from being an alcohol related term to having cannabis connotations, it’s believed to have something to do with jazz musicians. In as early as the 1930s, songs like Weed Smoker’s Dream and Reefer Man became popular.


I’ll play a snippet of a song called That Cat is High by the Ink Spots, so you can get a feel for the vibe of this era.

Speaker 6 (09:09):


Ellen Scanlon (09:27):

And remember Harry Anslinger, the godfather of Reefer Madness, who was notoriously racist, anti-cannabis and planted the seeds for the war on drugs. He had something to do with it too. The Oxford English Dictionary first cited stoned as being under the influence of drugs in 1953. This was inspired by the glossary section of Anslinger’s book called The Traffic of Narcotics. We’ve come a long way since the 1950s, and today the word stoner has a wider definition as the listeners you heard before have shared. Washington based writer and comedian, Alyssa Yeoman gave me her opinion of the word stoner.

Alyssa Yeoman (10:11):

Yeah, I think to me now it means a lifestyle. I do think there’s still a stigma that’s associated with the term stoner because everybody envisions just someone sitting on their couch doing nothing all day. But I think I’ve seen this influx of even the t-shirts that say like hardworking stoner on it. Until there’s a better word to kind of describe the community I’m the part of, I’m going to continue to use stoner, but I know that I’m in a position of privilege to be using that term stoner because it comes from a place that’s oppressive.


Being stoned, the idea comes from people use that as a argument against weed and still do. So right now, it’s just the only term. I think it’s a little bit better than pothead. I’ve tried weed head out a couple of times and it just doesn’t seem to catch on. So stoner is kind of what I’ve been left with, and I think there’s a little bit, although the term stoner comes from the stigma, I think there’s like a rebellion aspect. There’s a rebellious aspect in using the term stoner because it’s like rock on, stoner vibes. We’re still here.


Say hello to the stoners in your life, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re someone who’s smoking all day or anything like that. It can mean anywhere between someone who just has a fondness for weed and not smoking all day. You could just be enthusiastic about the plant. So until we have better words, like cannasseur that’s more regular or ganjier, I think stoner is kind of our best bet.

Ellen Scanlon (11:43):

While the term stoner may have started in a place with a lot of stigma, it’s now a word that’s being reclaimed by the cannabis community. Today’s most iconic stoners don’t have disheveled hair, squinting eyes, a permanent smile plastered on their face or a checked out view of the world. Because like the word, stoners today have evolved as well. They’re mothers, athletes, entrepreneurs, artists, accountants, entertainers, and politicians, and many people admire the happy, optimistic, joyful take on life that cannabis helps to enhance.


A list of famous stoners today includes Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, Seth Rogen, Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Chappelle, Jennifer Aniston, and one of my personal favorites, Snoop Dogg. Yes, I love Snoop. I am proud to say that seeing Snoop was my son’s first concert and we had the best time. Snoop even stopped by to say hi to us after the show on the way to his amazing weed bus. Snoop is maybe the best example of a stoner who has really crossed over into the mainstream and not just through his music. He’s an investor, an entrepreneur, and had a cooking show with Martha Stewart that was a match made in food heaven.


Because while I’m sure Martha does know her way around a kitchen, if you’ve listened to our munchies episode, you know that stoners also make really good cooks.


I think that Alyssa Yeoman said it perfectly, being a stoner is being a cannabis enthusiast. And while the word’s origins may be negative, and sure, some people still mean it that way. Today, people who love weed have also made the word their own. Because what if being a stoner means living a happier, healthier life with cannabis? Maybe it soothes an autoimmune disease, helps you get to sleep, reduces anxiety, stimulates your appetite, inspires better sex, or just makes you feel good. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good.


I think that the cannabis community challenging the negative stereotypes and taking the word back is a great step toward breaking the stigma that still exists around weed. It can feel very liberating to realize that you deserve happiness. And if there’s one word that I think goes hand in hand with cannabis, it’s happiness. And like with everything consuming cannabis responsibly is important too. The frequency or the amount can vary from person to person. And while you continue developing your relationship with cannabis, I hope you’ll take the time to consider what feels right for you.


I’ve been sick a lot this year and struggled with very slow recoveries. Hopefully you can’t hear it in my voice. I really haven’t felt good enough to do much, and I haven’t made a lot of time for fun. And the other day I was feeling really bad, sore throat, headache, cough, all of it. My husband, JP asked me very kindly, “Ellen, are you taking enough cannabis?” Until he asked the question, I hadn’t really thought about it. I was just trying to get through the days, but I realized I hadn’t consumed any THC for weeks.


And when he asked the question, I couldn’t help but wonder, why didn’t I think of that? I love hot tea. And so I brewed myself a cup with about a teaspoon of cannabis infused THC honey, I get mine from the California based company, Potli, and it did wonders for me. I felt so much better. My mood lifted, and that gave me just enough perspective to see that my health was the cause of a lot of my discomfort, not that the sky was falling. It was a very nice thing to realize. It helped me relax and give myself some space so I can continue to get better.


For a lot of us, cannabis is healing and I’d ask you to consider why consuming cannabis should be a source of shame, especially if it’s done in a way that’s improving you mentally, physically, or emotionally. So stoner isn’t really a word that I use a lot, but it is a word that a lot of cannabis enthusiasts love and embrace. And like your relationship with weed, I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what feels right.


This has been stoner on Weed Words. If you like this episode of Weed Words, we have a favor to ask. If you could tell two friends about this show, it would really help us grow, and we’d love to know what does the word stoner mean to you and what’s your relationship to the word. If you have any questions about anything we’ve covered in this episode, please reach out to us at Hi, that’s H-I, @dothepot.com or DM us at Do The Pot. Thank you to Morgan Victoria, Lo Friesen, Christina Perez and Jamie Hagan, who generously sent us voice memos explaining what the word donor means to them.


For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com, and that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter, which comes out every other Friday. And if you like How To Do The Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. Thank you to our producers, Matty Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon, and stay tuned for more of How To Do The Pot.


If you live in the Bay Area or are visiting San Francisco, check out Mary Modern, a dispensary for women and those who love them in the Laurel Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.



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