Seth Rogen on Weed's Racist History and Why Booze 'Will Kill You'

Alex Nino Gheciu
·6 min read

Cannabis-infused beverages have been legal north of the border since the start of the year, but according to some analysts, they still face “an uphill battle for a home inside Canadian coolers.”

Seth Rogen respectfully calls cap on that.

When I read him the above quote during a Zoom conference earlier this week, he simply shook his head, like he just took a drag from a joint full of dried-out schwag.

“It's funny, in our movie world, there's no article more prevalent than how medium-sized budget movies are dead and no one makes them anymore—and when they do, they don't make a lot of money,” the star of comedic smashes like Pineapple Express and Knocked Up told Complex Canada. “And for the last 15 years, we've exclusively made medium-sized budget films that have gone on to make multiples of their budget over and over and over again. So, I think when you really understand a category, listening to analysts who clearly don't, is not helpful.”

In fact, Rogen’s decision to add THC-infused beverages to Houseplant—the cannabis line he and BFF-turned-business partner Evan Goldberg founded in partnership with Canopy Growth Corp.—required hardly any number crunching: “We just knew that people would like these drinks because we know people like sparkling water and we know people like weed,” he said.

The math checks out: Houseplant’s grapefruit-flavoured sparkling water was Canada’s top selling cannabis drink of the summer. To prolong the high, Rogen and Goldberg just added a lemon-flavored beverage to the lineup.

"Weed should have never been illegal in the first place. It only was illegal for racially motivated and racist reasons: to control minority populations." - Seth Rogen

The Vancouver-bred film duo hope these drinks, which contain 2.5mg of sativa-dominant THC, not only compete with beer for space inside Canadian coolers, but one day replace suds entirely in people's lives.

“There’s a lot of studies our partners have been doing that say a huge percentage of people who try [cannabis] drinks would heavily consider switching from alcohol to these drinks,” said Rogen. “And I think they should. Alcohol is bad for you. It's poisonous. It will kill you. It has sugar that's terrible for your brain. It's terrible for your body. We were intent on making something that had no sugar, very few calories, and had an incredibly positive effect when you drink it. No analysts could convince me that this wouldn't be a product that people would like, because there's literally nothing not to like about it. [Laughs.]"

houseplant
Image via Houseplant

All of this, really, is part of the duo’s higher ambition of normalizing cannabis use. Sure, you could argue Rogen and Goldberg have already been doing that, one bong rip at a time, via their stoner comedies over the years, but they point out that weed consumption still carries a stigma across the U.S. and even in Canada, where it’s legal. They’ve been using their platform to advocate for the expungement of criminal records for cannabis crimes.

“Weed has been an integral part of our day-to-day lives for 20 years,” said Rogen on the call. “Being a successful, functional, emotionally available member of society and being someone who smokes weed all day, every day [are not] mutually exclusive.”

"Alcohol is bad for you. It's poisonous. It will kill you. It has sugar that's terrible for your brain. It's terrible for your body. We were intent on making something that had no sugar, very few calories, and had an incredibly positive effect when you drink it." - Seth Rogen

Rogen and Goldberg are also keenly aware that people of colour are overrepresented in weed arrests, while it’s largely white guys making bank off Canada’s legal industry. It's something they've spoken out about.

Which kinda invited me to ask the question: How would Seth and Evan’s lives have been affected if they'd faced legal repercussions for their cannabis use over the years?

“There'd be a lot of legal cases against us,” joked Goldberg. “Many infractions. Countless, I would say.”

“Fortunately, we're in one of the few industries where criminal records are not incredibly disqualifying when it comes to one's ability to work,” Rogen added, followed by a hearty Seth Rogen laugh.

“But in general, people can't vote if they [have records] in some cases, you know? There are hundreds of repercussions that affect people's day-to-day lives. And truthfully, I mean, all jokes aside, it's impossible for us to calculate the ways in which our lives would be inhibited if we looked differently, and the police targeted us for our cannabis use instead of not targeting us for our cannabis use. And that is just something that we understand and need to integrate into the fibre of what we're doing every day.”

"Even though the numbers are similar in Canada and America as far as how disproportionately racist the targeting of people smoking weed is, the repercussions in America are a thousand times worse for it," said Rogen. "Not to say it's great in Canada, but in America, there are people who will spend their entire lives in prison for menial cannabis offenses. So it's important to us to really do whatever we can to try to acknowledge that. You know, weed should have never been illegal in the first place. It only was illegal for racially motivated and racist reasons: to control minority populations. That's the only reason it's illegal and was ever illegal, and we can't pretend that we are in an industry that has not lived in that shadow for a long time."

On the homefront, the boys are happy cannabis is finally legal in the Great White North, but find the lingering restrictions around the plant—including the high barrier to entry into Canada's pot industry—to be a major buzz kill.

"If there is one problem I have with Canada's language around its legalization, it's that it is treating it as though it's a concession, and it should not be—it should never have been illegal in the first place. And this is a righting of wrongs, not a concession to some illicit market, you know?" said Rogen.

"We're proud that Canada legalized it, but it's been done in a way where there's a financial barrier to entry and everything's very difficult for people who aren't giant corporations," added Goldberg. "So there's a lot of work in Canada that still needs to be done. Always more in America, but a lot in Canada."

Regardless, the guys are ready to put in the work, however long it takes.

"I could talk about weed for literally 10 hours straight," said Rogen.

Related Articles

More Complex

Sign up for the Complex Newsletter for breaking news, events, and unique stories.

Follow Complex on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok