Pot culture, pop culture

420 beer

Many members of the cannabis culture enjoy a little beer with their bud. Now it seems that pot smokers are becoming a favored target market for micro-breweries across North America, as several beer companies have launched beers named after the stoner code number 420.
At a press conference held in August 2004, BC’s Shaftebury Brewing Company launched a new brilliant lager called Four Twenty. Although their press kits claimed the name derives from the fact that their beer uses four ingredients and is brewed for 20 days, it is clear that this is just a way of their avoiding having to admit that their beer is being marketed to the marijuana culture. Even Shaftebury’s Four Twenty label shows a clock with the hands pointing to 4:20.

Shaftebury isn’t the first brewery to name a beer after the cannabis code word. Stone Coast Brewpubs, based in New Hampshire and Maine, has a beer called 420 India Pale Ale. Stone Coast’s director of staff and operations, Mark Sawyer, denies any cannabis connection, telling the media that “420 refers to the date we incorporated the 420 enterprises. 420 is the company that owns the land our brewery is on.”

Finally, we have the Sweetwater Brewing Company of Atlanta, Georgia, whose award-winning flagship beer is the 420 Extra Pale Ale. Although their stated mission is to bring “West Coast Style” to the Southeast, they deny any pot connection, and claim that the 420 name came about because the beer was first brewed on April 20, 1997.

However, one poster at the online rating service Epinions writes that “…the brewers at Sweetwater Brewing Co are aware of the myths surrounding this number. Having met some of the employees of the company at Bonnaroo did little to dissuade that belief.”

All of these companies either refused to discuss this issue with Cannabis Culture, or failed to return our calls and emails by deadline. If you want to ask them for yourself, you can visit the Sweetwater brewery ? they have tours every Monday at 4:20 pm.

Lipton’s pot campaign

Another beverage selling itself to the bong-hit crowd is Lipton Tea, which has been promoting their tea online with the phrase, “Have you had your pot today?” Their banner ads, which run on Yahoo.com, display the ambiguous catch-phrase, and then resolve into a pot of Lipton Tea. They are also running a similar banner ad which begins, “Have a little pot in the office.”

Our online researchers have only found the ads while using the Yahoo Mail service, and appear to be triggered by key words such as “cannabis” and “marijuana” in your mail text.

Strangely, the ads cannot be clicked on, and so don’t actually allow the viewer to go to the Lipton home page. The banner ads also cannot be easily captured, so you cannot simply click and drag the banner image to your desktop. They are intended only to be seen, and to make the association between Lipton Tea and marijuana.

This is just one more example of a company marketing to the pot culture, but unwilling to make a real commitment.

Narcotic Nintendo

Although people have been increasing their pleasure connection by combining cannabis and video games since the dawn of the electronic era, never before has a video game company been so blatant in their pro-drug promotion as Nintendo’s current Canadian ad campaign.

Nintendo’s TV ads, which are running in Canada only, mock the typical anti-pot commercials one normally sees. One of the ads shows a pair of distraught parents explaining how they were unaware of their son’s “habit.” The parents say they only realized their son was a heavy Nintendo user when they heard him say the word “mushroom” on the phone.

Another ad shows a tearful girl explaining how she had helped her brother to “get hooked” on Nintendo because she “bought it for him.” A third ad shows a young man wandering the streets with his game consoles in a shopping cart, begging for batteries so he can feed his addiction. All these ads end with a close-up on a pupil which suddenly dilates as the camera moves through the eye and into the Nintendo universe.

Nintendo has often been accused of promoting pot and psychedelic mushrooms in their games, and dozens of websites are devoted to exploring the drug-related connections in the Nintendo universe. This is especially true of the games featuring Mario, such as the Super Mario game series. In these games, Mario’s stated goal is to “free the mushroom princess” and “save the mushroom people.” Among other things, power-ups take the form of mushrooms, a “fire-flower,” and a leaf which lets Mario fly.

Aside from these clues, other aspects of the game also seem to contain a drug-related metaphor. For example, while in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario often comes across a tall green plant which he can climb up. Once he has gotten as high as the plant can take him, Mario is free from enemies and can collect coins aplenty. Is this meant to be a metaphor for how growing marijuana can bring the user both friends and financial success?

Dozens of websites are devoted to detailing the marijuana and drug symbolism in Nintendo games. Regardless of how intentional these aspects of the games are, it is clear that Nintendo is enjoying their reputation as the stoner’s choice for quality games, and are purposefully marketing their product to the marijuana culture.

Pot improves game scores

One reason video games might be popular among tokers is that getting high can apparently improve your score! Recent research shows that toking up can improve performance at playing video games.

The creators of a new car racing video game called Burnout ran a high-profile study in January 2004, where they compared players who had recently smoked marijuana against players who abstained.

Those who had been given pot to smoke before they played generally showed faster reaction times and better scores. In a head-to-straight competition, the heads won 80% of the games.

Simon Wright, Burnout‘s communications director, told the media, “The results of our test clearly indicate that a small or moderate amount of cannabis is actually quite beneficial to someone’s driving performance.”