As the movement for marijuana policy reform gains steam, every year seems to usher in unprecedented advances. 2014 was no exception: This November, pot-friendly voters showed up to the ballots to approve marijuana legalization in two more states, Oregon and Alaska. And while Congress is already poised to intervene, Washington, D.C. also joined the legalization brigade on that same fateful month, ushering sane drug policy into the nation's capitol.
Also this year, Colorado and Washington state opened the doors to the nation's first legal marijuana shops, and potheads received two high-profile nods of encouragement. The first came via a New Yorker interview with Barack Obama, in which the president commented, "as has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid. I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," before adding, "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol." Then, this summer, the New York Times editorial board came out in support of marijuana legalization, nodding to Obama's statements by opining that "the social costs of the marijuana laws are vast" and 40 years of criminalization have come at the price of "inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol."
While 2014 was a landmark year for marijuana policy, it was also one hell of a ride for pot in pop culture. Women who love weed finally stood in the spotlight this year, thanks in large part to Broad City's showcase of typically under-represented female stoner-slackers. (Who could forget that "Pu$$y Weed" episode?) Abbi and Ilana's affinity for vapes, one-hits and joints helped made Broad City one of the most critically-acclaimed comedy series of the year, formally acknowledging women's place in what was once mischaracterized as a boys-only club of proud wake-and-bakers. 2014 also brought us the explosion of Kacey Musgraves, the Grammy Award-winning musician who took home the Best Country Song of the Year trophy for her same-sex-loving, joint-appreciating track "Straight Arrow."
Young women weren't the only people carrying the torch for marijuana normalcy – grandmas, too, are becoming big in the game. Last month, a video of "Grandmas Smoking Weed for the First Time," adorably laughing their asses off while playing Jenga, went viral. And then, just last week, Vice profiled a 91-year-old grandmother using YouTube to share her recipes for cannabis-infused Italian food. She would probably get along well with Baddie Winkle, the Instagram celebrity and weed-smoking, pot-leaf-sock-rocking great grandmother who has been "stealing your man since 1928" and blowing-up the Internet since 2014. Perhaps both of them will one day make appearances on another Instagram account new this year, ElderlyWhoDab.
Yet another granny who might fit in there is the eldest matriarch in the Kardashian clan, MJ. In an August episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kris Jenner, hoping to help her cancer-surviving mother ease her pain and nausea, grabs a medical marijuana recommendation and hits up a pot shop for a pipe and some grass. Upon offering it to her mother, however, she learns that MJ already had the same idea – and has some marijuana gummies of her own. In one of the most charming moments ever on the series, the two get high on pot gummies, giggle and eat snacks, before buzzkill Bruce Jenner busts in and demands, "Not in my house!"
The gold medal for pot-paranoia in 2014, however, goes to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, whose disastrous experiment with a marijuana brownie landed her "in a hallucinatory state" for eight hours, during which she "couldn't move to get water. Or even turn off the lights," so she laid in bed, "touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall."
A true cautionary tale, Dowd said she became "convinced that I had died and no one was telling me." Apparently, she did not realize that newbs should not consume an entire edible produced by Colorado's chronic connoisseurs. For all the laughs her article produced, however, she did make a good point: Weed food in Colorado is unfortunately not labeled to advise dosing, for the inexperienced or experienced stoner. (Grandmas, take note.)
While first-time tokers are learning to navigate the new marijuana landscape, veterans are learning how to break bank in the new legal market. At the same time 2014 saw a flurry of articles warning about the "commercialization of marijuana," the year also saw some celebrities using their brand to promote marijuana-related products. Wacka Flocka endorsed cough drops (which one might use after a harsh hit off a doob) in a smoke-filled TV spot, Bob Marley will front a new ganja brand from the grave, and Wiz Khalifa is launching his own line of marijuana accessories. Even the Oxford Dictionaries is riding the wave of weed's growing cultural acceptance – by naming its 2014 Word of the Year "vape."
Many musicians' unabashed love for pot also showed up in some of 2014's best marijuana anthems. While Young Thug's radio hit "Stoner" stated simply "I'm a Stoner" thrice in the hook, Schoolboy Q's "Roll My Weed" preached appreciation for women who can twist up the perfect joint. And then, there was Afroman's political remix of "Because I Got High," encouraging marijuana smokers to flex their electoral power at the polls.
But despite all the mainstreaming of pot in 2014, this year also showed that racially-motivated misconceptions about weed continue apace. Dr. Michael Baden, who performed the initial autopsy on Michael Brown – the 18-year-old killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson – appeared on Fox News to proclaim that marijuana found in Brown's system meant "he may have been acting in a crazy way and may have done things to the police officer that normally he would not have done." Though the presence of pot in Brown's system does not indicate whether he was actually stoned at the time of his death, and whether he was stoned does not tell us anything about what happened between Brown and Wilson before shots were fired, the narrative that Brown's alleged intoxication bolstered Wilson's account emerged nonetheless.
Alas, 2014 reminded us that weed is creeping toward normalcy, but while we can all appreciate a stoned grandmother, the cost of marijuana use still comes with a hefty price tag for marginalized groups – and young black men in particular. Here's to hoping the windfall of policy reform will help change this persistent statistic, so that 2015 is an even better year in weed.