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The Origins of “Stoner”

3 minute Read

It seems the word “stoner” has become the most common word to describe someone who smokes a lot of weed. It might sound derogatory, but as the stoner stereotype diversifies, it could shed a bit of the stigma historically attached to it. In fact, some may even take back “stoner” as a point of pride, coming out of the cannabis closet, and proving there’s no longer just one type of stoner.

A “stoner” is officially defined as “a person who is habitually high on drugs, especially marijuana or alcohol,” or “a person who is usually stoned.” It seems nowadays, a “stoner” is most closely associated with cannabis, as opposed to alcohol; but the word “stoned” could also easily apply to being high on LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA, or other substances.

The origins of the word “stoner” are unclear, but we’ve narrowed down a few theories.

It may derive from the Italian word “stonato,” which means “bewildered, confused, or dazed.”

Or it might be a metaphor, rooted in literally getting stoned, or having rocks thrown at you. Like many other terms for getting too intoxicated, such as “trashed,” “smashed,” “hammered,” or “blitzed,” “stoned” also refers to physical bodily damage.

“Stoned” or “stoner” might also reference the stationary nature of a stone, which, like someone who’s too high, just sits in one place and does nothing.

Today, however, the lazy stoner persona is coming to be a thing of the past. While getting too stoned might put you out of commission if you have a lot of work to do, or if you need to drive, the stoner stereotype is becoming diversified. Lady stoners, tech stoners, parent stoners, business stoners, and so on are as much a part of the “stoner” ethos as the guy eating potato chips on the couch in his parents’ basement.

By current standards, a stoner is merely someone who’s enthusiastic about using cannabis. In fact, America’s fast growing population of cannabis enthusiasts are behind an industry worth more than $6 billion and counting. Cannabis and the people who use it are becoming normalized, while reefer madness is increasingly seen as an artifact of antiquated propaganda. Weed isn’t the “devil’s lettuce” and the people who use it are no longer regarded as degenerates.

In support of the new image of the cannabis enthusiast, the National Cannabis Industry Association launched an ad campaign showcasing the community of cannabis business folk. The NCIA’s Washington D.C.-area ads have a political focus, rebranding what people think about weed smokers: Take for instance the ex-marine or the elderly women who use medical marijuana to treat pain from their surgeries.
With the tagline, “I am the cannabis industry,” the NCIA’s ad campaign goes beyond the stoner stereotype to shed light on the real life faces and personalities who consume and work in the cannabis space. One of the people featured, Scott Yoss, said he thought that the cannabis would be “dominated by hippies,” but rather discovered that it was populated by a younger, educated, law-abiding demographic.

“We have fought hard to be recognized as a legitimate, law-abiding industry, and neither we nor consumers have the right to endanger our freedom by being reckless or disrespectful of local statutes,” said Yoss.

The NCIA isn’t the only entity to work toward rebranding cannabis and the people who engage with it. Various businesses and organizations, such as Women Grow, a cannabis networking group for women in the industry, or Whoopi & Maya, a line of cannabis products to treat PMS, are changing public perception of cannabis products and consumers.

“The millennial generation doesn’t have a lot of stigma or judgment around cannabis,” Jeanine Moss, founder of Annabis Style, tells Jane Street. Moss makes a line of luxury pursues that have secret compartments for your stash. “We don’t like to call ourselves stoners, because what does it mean to be a stoner? We’re people who consume cannabis, just like people who drink wine aren’t winos.”

The Annabis customer loves luxury and fashion, has several different sides to her, and doesn’t always broadcast what she does in her personal life, says Moss. She doesn’t scream “stoner” in any sort of stereotypical way. So while some may shun the word “stoner” altogether, others might reappropriate it to define their own lifestyle.

Whereas once the lazy stoner stereotype may have characterized the cannabis enthusiast, today there’s more attention on a sophisticated, diverse consumer changing the way people think about weed — and about stoners.

The Origins of “Stoner”