It all started this year when I wanted to buy a bong. Not just any bong. A nice bong, a pretty bong, a bong I could leave out on the table without a second thought when company came over.
I wanted a grown-up bong.
But where to procure such an item? And did this item exist? What was the object and design side of “weed culture” now?
To start from the beginning, I didn’t start smoking until I was in college. And, even then, I was two years into my degree before I tried it. But cannabis had been around me since I was fourteen, and just an adorable straight-edge little thing who observed instead of imbibed. And, man, did I observe. Up until my 30’s, I would have described “stoners” by the environment they created around them; not by the amount they smoked (or ate). A stoner, in my experience, wore tie-dyes and baggy hats. Maybe tried to rock some Rastafarian colors on a poncho hoodie. They had long hair, hemp necklaces, weed patches, and listened to Phish. This wasn’t just high school; this style existed around me in college with wall hangings, blacklight posters, and a designated “chill” room in their one-too-many-people-on-the-lease apartments. To be a regular cannabis user was to be a holdover hippie and that extended to the pieces used. Big, giant bongs with fifty percolators, or acrylic pieces that looked like tourist drinks from the Vegas strip, or a glass-blown orange and aquamarine hand pipe the length of a salami— its name was probably “Dave” or something.
I thought, “that’s what it is to be in weed culture. That’s what it is to enjoy cannabis.” If you smoke more than just at parties when a joint is passed, then you’re a part of the world. And the world was inspired by Alice in Wonderland and a little musty. But I loved smoking out with my friends so… I was a stoner. I dipped my toe into “weed culture”. In fact, my first hand pipe was bright orange. And I had an orange wall hanging with a psychedelic butterfly. Honestly, I hated them both. I had two hemp necklaces my best friend made and I wore them proudly. A couple tie-dyes I’d whip out if I was feeling spunky. Whatever, I was in my 20’s having fun. Figuring it out.
A Grown-Up Ganja Lover
But now I’m 33. I am so 33. And still a regular cannabis user, in need of a new piece, and I… just can’t with a bubbler sporting a wizard on top. Or most jam bands. And I won’t sit on a dirty Persian carpet in your living room if I don’t have to. And I don’t. I’m 33, dammit.
So what are the options? What does being a “stoner” look like? What is “weed culture” heading into your 30’s? For answers, I turned to my friends:
“I’m an everyday heavy user and I own maybe one pair of pot leaf socks as a joke. I’m drawn to less “420 blaze it” packaging and I avoid bongs, pipes, etc that feel too “college kid”. I buy them in neutral or more grown up colors; I like them to feel like part of my furniture and decor rather than a silly novelty. I like having them out all the time and don’t want it to feel like stuff someone would hide when they have company.”
“I just enjoy the product itself and ignore the culture. As for design, price first and foremost, followed by functionality for me.”
“I hate weed culture.”
Well, we were all on the same page, hard adults, but it didn’t really answer my question. Because the difficulty was less knowing what I was looking for and more knowing where to find it. A trip into any head shop (smoke shop? See, I don’t even know the current lingo) yielded me a high selection of pieces 20-year-old me would have RAVED over but secretly resent. A search on Instagram showed me many well-crafted hand and water pipes… shaped like elephants and donuts. But then, suddenly, there it was, as though it had been right in front of me the whole time. A friend shared an Instagram post of a sand-tone water pipe with a beautiful, but simple, black design on the base.
My Bud Vase.
According to their website, the founder, Doreen Sullivan, created the company because “marrying artistry, accessibility, and cannabis has motivated her to help close the smoking stigma gap.”
Smoking stigma. That was my rosebud. When I was younger, imbibing in cannabis was associated with laziness and stupidity. The dumb stoner, always down for a debate but never getting anything done. It seemed hand-in-hand. Be a regular user, be a dumb stoner, be a part of “weed culture”. Blast Rush at 3am while forgetting you have pizza rolls in the oven. Barely hold down a minimum wage job. Hemp, all the hemp.
Where I thought I’d been trying to define “weed culture” or the modern cannabis user in terms of aesthetic lifestyle choices, I was really trying to build a defense against my own internalized fear of being labeled a “stoner” and all the negative connotation that comes with it. As I salivated over My Bud Vase’ beautiful collection and then sleuthed out other companies and sites sporting equally toned down but still lovely pieces, it all came into focus.
I didn’t become a grown-up stoner. Like my friends and many others, I just grew up. My tastes and preferences became more defined and though I prefer “cannabis user” as it does sound very mature… I would still call myself a stoner. “Weed culture”, as we know it, isn’t based on using cannabis. It’s based on those who want to surround themselves with elements of the product they enjoy. Which is ok if that’s your thing. As I mentioned earlier fairly forcefully, I’m 33. I prefer wearing mostly black or darker colors, I like my pieces to blend in with my decor of dried flowers and framed show posters, I keep a regular social and work schedule, and I smoke cannabis every day.
I played with “weed culture” as a kid because I, like many, was figuring myself out. Now I’ve got it mostly understood and I know what the modern stoner looks like.
Turns out, it looks like me. Older, chiller, and a fan of neutral tones.