American Decline

Up in Smoke: How “weed smell” became a potent boogeyman of American decline

By Rebecca Onion Slate

How “weed smell” became a potent boogeyman of American decline.

Last Friday at a press conference, New York Mayor Eric Adams answered a New York Post reporter’s question about the record-breaking number of odor complaints placed with New York City’s 311 service so far this year. “The number one thing I smell right now is pot. It’s like everyone’s smoking a joint now,” Adams said, making his answer into a bit of a joke.

It turned out most of those calls were about idling vehicles. That’s a smell that actually indicates danger, and is more analogous to the types of odors that New Yorkers, and residents of other American cities, used to flag for public officials in the bad old days of the 19th century, when sewage and industrial effluvia were everywhere.

But Adams’ deflection to weed smoke was telling. The smell of weed in a city has come to stand in for a lot, to a lot of people. In January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, when asked about marijuana legalization at a press conference, “It smells so putrid.” He added: “I think a lot of those other areas that have done it have ended up regretting it. I could not believe the pungent odor that you would see in some of these places, and I don’t want to see that here. I want people to be able to breathe freely.”

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Categories: American Decline

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