Marijuana advocates like former NBA all-star Cliff Robinson will tell you that one of the hardest parts of working in the cannabis industry is combating stereotypes. For every story about successful smokers like Morgan Freeman and Bill Maher, there's a song like Afroman's 2001 hit Because I Got High that drags the conversation about cannabis right back down to stoner stereotypes.
The pothead caricature created by Afroman, a.k.a. Joseph Foreman - who turns 42 today - is the classic loser who uses being high as an excuse for messing up everything. Here's a sampling of the song's lyrics.
I was gonna clean my room until I got high.
I was gonna get up and find the broom but then I got high.
My room is still messed up and I know why.
'Cause I got high, 'cause I got high, 'cause I got high.
La da da da da da da da da.
But nowadays it's becoming more and more apparent that those stereotypes are out of touch with reality. For instance, smoking one of these four strains would likely help you stay focused and motivated enough to clean your entire house in one go. But the lyrics don't allow for any nuances, and the song quickly goes off the rails as the narrator ends up losing his wife, his kids, his job, his health and his home.
Afroman himself has since recognized that the song's message is entirely negative. That's why he released a "positive remix" of the song that looks at the brighter side of responsible cannabis consumption.
"'Because I Got High' put me on the map – it’s what got me a record deal, a Grammy nomination and made me a household name," Afroman told Rolling Stone when the revamped track was released in 2014. "Getting high – and rapping about it – got me to where I am today and I'll be forever grateful for that. With the current political battle with states trying to legalize weed, I thought it was a good time to educate – or set the record straight – about marijuana’s benefits, which is why I wanted to remake the song."
The new lyrics tell the story of a guy who used marijuana to treat his glaucoma, quit drinking, manage anxiety attacks and help the state build new schools through tax revenues. The song - which was produced in collaboration with the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Weedmaps - also preaches benefits of legalization, like cutting organized crime out of the marijuana market.
The positive version definitely didn't get as much attention as the original -- let alone a grammy nomination -- but it may have helped usher in legalization regimes in Alaska and Oregon. And it could become a celebratory anthem for California, Maine, Massachusetts and other states poised to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana this fall.
Oh, and the video featuring Afroman singing on a floating couch is definitely funnier than the original.