In 1996, the reggae-rock band 311 went on tour with fellow weed-loving fusion acts Cypress Hill and Pharcyde. One reviewer likened the show the groups put on to a “hemp fest.” A separate article’s headline teased, “Ganja mischief pervades.” For 311 frontman Nick Hexum, this all amounted to “a dream tour.” Hexum fondly recalls a lot of bong ripping, a lot of laughs, but also a sense of defiance. “In the early days,” he says, “we were really being rebel conscientious objectors by smoking a joint onstage and kind of daring people to arrest you.”
Fast forward a couple decades, and it’s not just SoCal stoners lighting up onstage. It’s megastars like Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Drake. The act is no longer rare, nor terribly rebellious. Over the course of the past couple decades, Americans’ attitudes toward weed have transformed. The percentage of people who support marijuana legalization has risen from the mid-20s in 1995 to the mid-60s today. Though marijuana remains illegal under federal law, ten states have legalized it recreationally and thirty-three have legalized it medicinally since 2012.
And so, like many weed fans of previous generations, Hexum and his bandmates have gone from pot-smoking outsiders to pot-industry insiders. The band now totes a signature 311 vape pen. “We laugh about it all the time, what a massive change that is in the culture and experience, to come out of the shadows,” Hexum says.