Once upon a time, there was a beer so hard to find east of the Mississippi River that they made a movie about it: Smokey and the Bandit. Yes, there was a time in history when driving Coors across state lines was considered smuggling.

Then laws and beer markets changed. As soon as Coors reached the East, its mystique died. What was once the champagne of the mountain West is now just another cheap, watery American beer.

Smokey and the BanditWe’re facing a similar possibility now that Cuba and the United States have resumed diplomatic relations for the first time in more than half a century. The island’s famous cigars have long been banned here, but tourists will now be able to bring the luxury items back to the States in small amounts.

Once the remaining embargo against Cuban imports ends, as it likely will within the next few years, the thrill of Cuban tobacco will be gone. And that could do real damage to the cigars’ international markets.

Weed could be next

Could the same thing happen to weed? It’s still banned in most of the country, whether by state law, federal law, or both. But it’s likely that it will soon be legal in many places, and that could take away some of the mysterious appeal of cannabis.

Medical marijuana is spreading rapidly. Congress recently passed a landmark bill protecting cannabis patients, and four states have legalized recreational pot (as has Washington, D.C.). But weed still carries a mildly criminal aura in most places.

And that’s a big part of the drug’s appeal. There are lots of good reasons to smoke dope, and we’re learning more about them on a daily basis. But one of the strongest is the forbidden nature of marijuana and the knowledge that its users are dodging criminal or at least financial sanctions.

Will it lose its appeal?

What happens when weed goes legal everywhere? That could be a matter of years, or it could be a matter of decades, depending on politics, court rulings, and public demand.

When it happens (and it will), stoners will be left with the task of keeping weed weird. We’re already a big part of the reason for its mystique, and it will be our duty to prevent the drug from losing its cachet.

The first step is maintaining stoner style. We potheads have never really fit in with the modern world; it’s a little too stimulated for our taste. We prefer a classic, laid-back approach to life.

It’s equally important to stay nice. The great thing about tokers is that we let life’s little griefs roll right off our backs. And we’re friendly to newcomers, a big plus is a world with too much hate.

marijuanaThis is critical: We must not become close-minded snobs and insist that everyone be just like us. It won’t work, and it could make us all so unlikeable that nobody would want anything to do with us. So making first-timers and part-timers feel loved is important.

And let’s not forget the need to keep weed local. This might be the biggest step we can take as a community to hold our place among the weirdos. Federal law currently forces growers to sell locally by barring interstate drug shipments.

But those laws could change as reform spreads. If they do, we stoners must be ready to support local growers, local processors, and local sellers so our favorite corner of life never becomes Big Tobacco.

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