Dear fellow stoner: You’re right on cannabis but wrong on QAnon

Published on October 25, 2020 · Last updated October 26, 2020
A QAnon follower protests coronavirus stay-at-home orders in May 2020, in Olympia, WA. QAnon is a wide-ranging conspiracy fiction, centered on the baseless belief that President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the "deep state" and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

I’m not here to scold you or to shame you. But we need to talk—stoner to stoner.

Conspiracy theories have long been an integral part of cannabis culture, for the very good reason that cannabis itself has been the target of one of the largest and most damaging conspiracies in modern history.

Social media is targeting stoners like us as likely QAnon conspiracy believers. Don’t fall for it.

How else to explain the way a plant with incredible medicinal benefits, no lethal dose, and total good vibes was labeled everything from “The Assassin of Youth” to “The Devil’s Lettuce” and then used to justify a racist, abusive, corrupt, and overtly cruel war on peaceful people?

For more than a century, the government, the medical establishment, and the media have all conspired together to prop up this terribly oppressive system, which has led to millions of arrests, torn families apart, and left cancer patients to puke their way through chemo when just a puff or two of weed could have changed everything.

Fortunately, the cannabis community—through tireless grass roots political action and advocacy—has pushed back against this massive conspiracy to the point where 11 states (plus Washington, DC) have now fully legalized cannabis, 35 states have legalized medicinally, and this November five more states will vote to join their ranks.

In 1969, only 12% of Americans supported ending the war on marijuana. Legalization was a fringe belief. That number now stands at over 60%.

We should be incredibly proud of this progress, because we are the ones who saw through all the lies. We had the courage and conviction to tell the truth—often at great personal cost.

But alas, my friends, not all conspiracies are created equally.

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Your friends want you back

I’m guessing that someone from your smoking circle sent you this article. They care about you, and they’re worried this whole QAnon thing is sending you down a bad road.

On the other hand, at some point in your life, you’ve likely had a loved one express their concern simply because you love cannabis. They might have told you anything from weed gives you lung cancer (it doesn’t), to weed leads to harder drugs (it doesn’t), weed will make you violent (it doesn’t), unmotivated (it doesn’t), or schizophrenic (it doesn’t).

Heck, people used to literally believe that hippies eat babies when they get the munchies.

Cannabis lies debunked by actual studies

Over the last century, the government’s lies about cannabis have been thoroughly debunked—again and again. In 1944, at the behest of the mayor of New York City, a blue ribbon panel of eminent physicians studied the issue for five years and definitively determined the following:

  • The practice of smoking marijuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
  • The use of marijuana does not lead to heroin or cocaine addiction.
  • Marijuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
  • Fears over the catastrophic effects of marijuana smoking in New York City are unfounded.

In 1971, a Harvard Medical School professor wrote a book called Marihuana Reconsidered that referenced the most unimpeachable science available to make an irrefutable argument for legalization. Two years later a blue-ribbon commission, established by no less a drug warrior than Richard Nixon, reached the very same conclusion

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And yet, in 2020, the war on marijuana marches on.

More than 650,000 Americans will be arrested for cannabis this year, the overwhelming majority for simple possession. Meanwhile, neither candidate for president supports legalization.

Who are you helping, dude? In this 2018 photo, a QAnon believer supports members of Patriot Prayer and other right-wing groups at a protest in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

You uncovered the truth about cannabis

Despite all of this official anti-pot propaganda, you somehow managed to uncover the hidden truth about cannabis. That process likely involved a combination of personal experience, independent research, and the discovery of a like-minded, supportive community providing mutual support.

At least, that’s been my experience with weed and weed culture.

And perhaps you now feel the same way about Q.

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Q is objectively not true

With so many people isolated and afraid right now, finding online message boards and chat groups that welcome you in and explain how to fight back against a massive evil conspiracy must be comforting and inspiring.

Ask yourself: Who benefits from these untrue accusations and theories?

I’ll admit that’s not a culture I have any experience with directly, but I’m willing to believe that many people involved in actively spreading QAnon have good intentions and believe they’re doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, they’re not doing the right thing.

I say that only after taking the time to study Q sufficiently to reach the following conclusion: What QAnon says is objectively not true.

The Q crowd will naturally tell you that if I deny the conspiracy, I must be in on it. That’s what’s called circular reasoning. Meaning that no matter what new evidence is introduced, you can only reach the same old conclusion.

Which, when you think about it, is the opposite of thinking for yourself.

Skepticism is my full-time job

As an author and a journalist, I’ve spent the past 20 years reporting on cannabis, including refuting an endless number of lies about this plant and those who consume it. So I know not to take official sources at face value. But I also know a bullshit sandwich when I’m handed one. 

And QAnon is a bullshit sandwich.

If you want to track the data and logic by which I reached that conclusion, please allow me to recommend this fact-based impartial debunking from Snopes.

Read it with an open mind and see what you think. For yourself.

Weed people are being targeted with Q bullshit

Like I said up top, I’m not here to scold or to shame—or to argue.

So please let me explain why I decided to write this article.

More so than any religious, ethnic, or national identity, I consider weed people to be my people. As a chronicler of this culture over the past two decades, I’ve had the profound honor and pleasure of speaking and seshing with literally thousands of growers, dealers, healers, artists, activists, and entrepreneurs who love and honor this plant, from across the country and all around the world.

And so it makes me angry to see our wonderful, vibrant, revolutionary weed community targeted with dangerous disinformation. Which is exactly what’s happening, in large part because the algorithms of major social media networks irresponsibly connect QAnon with cannabis via broad categories like alternative health, yoga, and wellness.

Here’s how it works

One minute you’re reading a Facebook post about essential oils, and two clicks later you’re watching a YouTube video making unfounded, vile claims about an innocent person based upon evidence that on close inspection reveals itself to be a bunch of bullshit slapped between two pieces of bread.

And this same disinformation is now seeping into real life.

I’ve already heard from a statistically significant number of friends that someone they used to smoke weed with at Grateful Dead shows now believes that Tom Hanks eats babies at the behest of Satan.

Yes, that’s really what QAnon wants you to believe, among many other things.

Which is not only sad, it’s frightening.

Civil wars and genocides have started with the widespread adoption of such fever dreams.

Who benefits from these lies?

If I still haven’t convinced you to reconsider Q, and if the debunking resources provided haven’t convinced you, please consider one last question before we part ways.

Is it possible that instead of exposing a vast conspiracy, QAnon itself is the conspiracy?

The first question any investigator asks when trying to determine who committed a crime is “Who benefits?” 

Think for yourself. Demand evidence. Look into the research. Inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit.

When it comes to the conspiracy against cannabis, that includes everyone from Big Pharma to the prison-industrial-complex.

Now please ask yourself, “Who benefits?” the next time you see a QAnon post casting your friends, family, and neighbors as complicit in some vast evil plot of unimaginable intricacy.        

Then ask yourself who is hurt by Q.

Be sure to count yourself among the victims, because if you keep going down this dark road you’re eventually going to lose the people you care about, and who care about you.

Read this heartbreaking VICE article where average citizens describe losing their spouses, parents, children, or grandparents to the cult of QAnon. And then get in touch with your stoner friend who sent you this article. Invite them to join you for a sesh and a heartfelt chat.

Inhale the good shit.

And exhale the bullshit.

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David Bienenstock
David Bienenstock
Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock is the author of "How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High" (2016 - Penguin/Random House), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast "Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean." Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.
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