Is the term ‘stoner’ viewed as condescending?

Published Oct 8, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / ChristianChan

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a time where cannabis is far less demonized, but the past still haunts us, as it is clear by the judgment of infamous pot-related terms such as ‘stoner’. Some cannabis enthusiasts embrace the term as a symbol of who they are, while many others are left with conflicting feelings when they’re referred to as a stoner. So, is either side of the argument correct? Is there a need to rectify the use of this stigmatized word, or is all of this mumbo jumbo just getting blown out of proportion?

The reality is that this is a far more complex issue because personal feelings are involved, and for many, the sheer association with the plant is enough to make them squeamish but to truly decide for yourself, you’ll need to start at the very beginning by delving into what the definition of a stoner is, as well as where the term likely came from.

What does stoner mean?

The true definition of the word stoner shows that the word is used to describe someone who is usually getting high on marijuana or someone who takes drugs all of the time. Though most who hear the word assume that it’s used in reference to cannabis, it can also be used to describe the use of any other drug, on the market today, on a regular basis.

The origin of the term stoner

We know that the term stoner has taken on an evolved sort of meaning over time, which is why it is important to also consider the possible origins of the word. Unfortunately, it’s been around for so long that we truly have no idea how it ever came to be, but we do have a pretty good idea based on what we know about the plant, its effects, and other languages.

1. Derived from the Italian term stonato

The Italian word stonato is used to describe feeling dazed, confused, or bewildered, which is why some experts believe that this is where the term originated.

2. A metaphor

If you think about the way that we describe the use of other drugs like alcohol, it is not uncommon to say things like hammered or smashed to let someone know how it made us feel. For this reason, some experts believe that the term originated as a metaphor to describe the sensations induced by cannabis use.

3. The nature of a stone

When you get stoned, what is it that you normally do? Though there are certainly some strains that can leave you feeling motivated or invigorated, you’re much more likely to find a comfortable spot and stay there to ride out the high, staying still like a stone.


There are really only a few words in English that are widely used to describe cannabis users, and the two most popular are stoner and pothead. Both of those terms come with negative associations under the assumption that those who hold that title must be high all of the time, unmotivated, messy, or some other poorly viewed characteristic that is generally unappealing.


A good example of this can be found in the media, as major names like Cheech and Chong have built an enormous empire on the idea that the stoner stereotype is not only true but also laugh-worthy, and this is much of the reason that the term stoner brings to mind negative images of a scruffy, dim-witted, guy with long hair, no job, and zero responsibilities.

The reality is that stoner stereotypes are built on numerous misconceptions that we as a society have accepted as fact, but the majority of those assumptions have now been proven wrong, or in the very least, highly exaggerated, and that is why some cannabis enthusiasts have chosen instead to embrace the term as part of their identity, as they work actively towards changing these stereotypes for the cannabis community.

Diversification of the stoner stereotype

We now know that some of the highest paying, most motivated, and incredibly successful individuals have admitted to getting high the entire time that they were working their butts off to build a lucrative future, and that harmful stoner stereotypes are little more than myths that are overused, especially in cases like what we see on the big screen and this knowledge opens the door for us to change the narrative surrounding the word stoner.

A new image

As the need for a new stoner image is more widely noticed, some companies like the National Cannabis Industry Association are working to help us to rebrand through ad campaigns that are designed to showcase cannabis business employees who come from all walks of life. Others like Women Grow openly advocated for this much-needed evolution, and the increase in overall acceptance of cannabis use shows that it’s working.

The need for new words or decisive meaning agreements

After you’ve sparked up a joint and taken a few puffs, how would you describe the way that it made you feel? Would you say that you were getting high? Chances are pretty good that you answered yes, because we only have so many cannabis terms that exist, and the unfortunate truth is that nearly all of them can be used interchangeably to describe the use of other types of drugs.

This strange circumstance is the product of decades worth of prohibition, folding all illegal drug use under one large umbrella, and forcing cannabis enthusiasts to carry a criminal association. It is true with most cannabis-related terms, and it’s a problem that is likely to slow down societal acceptance because when non-consumers hear them, they might just think the worst, no matter what your intention is.

It would certainly be a massive undertaking, but perhaps it is time that we made up and used other words to describe getting stoned, as we’re simply enjoying a plant that has been around for eons because it offers a wide range of benefits to all types of consumers. Some say this ultimate division is the real clean slate that we all need to move forward towards a more accepting future, and it’s hard to argue with after combing through hundreds of pot-related terms that all work the same way.

In conclusion

Stoner can be viewed as either an endearing term to describe the regular use of cannabis products, but it is still often frowned upon by those on both sides of the argument. Though we might not always agree on how to get there, the important thing here is that we erase the damaging, propaganda fueled, mental image of a stoner and replace it with something more wholesome and truly descriptive of the reality that we know to be true today.

Witnessing the next evolution of stoner stereotypes


Related posts