This is a common pathway for those in the music industry specifically, especially within jurisdiction that have not yet legalized cannabis either recreationally or medically.
Countless musicians and entertainers worldwide are utilizing their creative outlets or social media platforms to speak more openly about their own personal experiences and consumption habits with cannabis, playing an integral role in shifting perspectives regarding CBD or THC on a mainstream level. Although the legal status of the cannabis plant and its byproducts may play a direct role in shaping one's personal or professional relationship to it, the global presence of the plant cannot be ignored.
For example, in the United States and Canada, renowned hip-hop artists such as Drake, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Master P, 2 Chainz, Method Man and Rick Ross, among others, have launched different brands and contributed to the economy of the legal cannabis industry, while also touching on the plant and its medicinal benefits in their lyrics.
Meanwhile, overseas, the culture is comparatively much more restrictive or dismissive.
While the landscape is slowly changing, Europe, the UK and Asia currently have less liberal stances regarding CBD and THC when compared to others. Understandably, this directly impacts the international music market's relationship with cannabis. Given the varying degrees of legality, it varies on an individual scale—whether or not an artist may feel comfortable expressing their views in their music, on social media or in a business sense.
In South Korea, there is a movement slowly gaining momentum
In 2018, the country became the first in East Asia to legalize medical cannabis. The shift in legislation came as both a shock and a celebration, as the country has exceptionally strict laws when it comes to the possession and consumption of recreational cannabis. Such offenses related to recreational cannabis are reportedly punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won ($44,000 USD). The country has a detailed history of being particularly harsh towards entertainers and singers, with a number of notable musicians being prosecuted by the legal system, ridiculed in the media and in some instances unable to fully recover.
In an effort to increase the popularity of the 1976 Cannabis Control Act,
then-president Park Chung-hee went after South Korean entertainers performing at U.S. army bases and arrested over 50 people. Among those who faced both legal trouble and societal backlash during Chung-hee's administration was the "Godfather of Korean rock" Shin Jung-hyeon and singing legend Cho Yong-pil. In the decades and years that have followed, a number of established artists have been arrested and prosecuted for marijuana usage, including pop icon Lee Seung-chul, rapper/singer Kim Kye-Hoon (better known as Crown J), global pop sensation PSY, E-Sens, iKON's B.I. and Big Bang member T.O.P.
As exemplified in numerous ways, Korea's cultural economy continues to strongly influence the globe, a sweeping and illustrious movement commonly known as Hallyu. The phenomena spans pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies, with Korean culture and brands experiencing exponential economic growth, reaching a widespread global audience and driving a heavy impact across industries throughout the world. As K-pop artists and Korean entertainers continue to influence culture on a global level and travel abroad to countries with a more liberal stance on cannabis, there is sure to be pressure calling for a shift in its drug policy. South Korean authorities have repeatedly warned citizens they are subject to the country’s criminal card regardless of traveling abroad, advising that they refrain from using cannabis. This has resulted in trouble for some K-Pop artists and entertainers, resulting in difficulties regarding getting their starpower and monumentum back.
Due to Korea's strict laws and subsequent public outcry, musicians have faced both legal and personal consequences as a result of marijuana in the current climate. On top of facing jail time, fines or probation, other repercussions include having record deals terminated, being banned from performing and garnering severe scrutiny in the press. The music community in South Korea may have an uphill battle ahead of it, but as we've seen in other countries, musicians will certainly play an integral role in helping shift the societal stigma surrounding cannabis, especially as the market in East Asia embraces its potential to grow exponentially.
Similarly, the UK is also undergoing a transition regarding how its government views cannabis in the eyes of the law. Currently, cannabis is classified as a Class B substance under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, making it illegal to grow, possess and distribute marijuana. However, while possession can warrant up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine, some police forces have adapted a more liberal enforcement approach. In the realm of pop culture, grime artists such as Stormzy, Kano and Wiley have each made lyrical references in their music, while singer Ed Sheeran has been vocal about his personal usage in the press. As the legalization movement in the UK continues to gain steam, there is also a burgeoning gravitation towards CBD, which is legal in the UK as long as it contains less than .3 percent THC. With a growing interest in CBD reaching the UK, electronic artists such as Sasha, Bou and Harriet Jaxxon have begun speaking out about their enthusiasm for the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, helping to de-stigmatize plant-based medicine in general.
The international music market helps drive culture forward, with changing attitudes towards CBD and cannabis being no exception. As the legal landscape continues to shift, we're sure to see more and more musicians around the globe embracing a public relationship with the plant and its potential. After all, the world is listening.