In among the endless detritus of YouTube, where a dude filming himself mow lawns can capture the eyes of millions, there exists a sizable community of creators who work to challenge the lonely stoner stereotype, documenting themselves smoking doobies and telling stories. On a platform that can serve to bring faraway people together, these motivated producers have kindled smoke circles large enough to rival those at the likes of Woodstock. Thus, they earned their rightful name: WeedTubers.
“I started making smoking videos because I was tired of smoking all alone,” says Deeva (username Deevaology). “I may be an introvert, but I enjoy the thought of having others around occasionally, so I turned to YouTube. After posting a few stoner sessions of just myself and my camera, I noticed that there’s a huge community out there of individuals who are just like me — there are really people who look specifically for people to smoke with online.”
The comments underneath her smoke-filled videos confirm this experience. “Let me join you with a blunt,” one commenter writes. “I hope you’re feeling better today. Remember, you’re loved, and we all care for you.”
Deeva suspects, however, that at least some of her viewers, particularly those in places where weed is still illegal or who get drug tested for work, simply tune in out of curiosity about weed and the people who partake. “A lot of people tell me they do smoke along, but a lot of people also tell me that they can’t smoke, so they watch to get the satisfaction as if they were smoking,” she explains. “They live vicariously through me.”
Fellow WeedTuber Cody (username xCodeh) seems a little more perplexed about his rise to fame as a digital wake-and-bake star. “It’s mind-blowing that I could just press record on my camera, smoke some bud and talk about anything on my mind,” he says. “People seemed to enjoy it.” Since he currently boasts more than 700,000 subscribers and counting, yeah, that seems like a fair comment.
In the earlier days of his channel — 2014 through 2016 — like Deeva, Cody believes that at least some viewers watched because cannabis was becoming more popular, and without federal support for proper weed education, potential smokers turned to YouTube for insight. “I’ve seen occasionally someone message me on Twitter, Discord and Snapchat saying how much they like my videos, but have never smoked,” he says. “Curiosity plays a part in that. When I learned about how ‘dangerous’ cannabis was in health class, I immediately went home and searched everything I could.”
Perhaps what really makes these videos so popular, though, is the genuine and tenacious attitude these YouTubers have toward doing what every weed enthusiast enjoys most — smoking green and telling absurd stories with their friends. “I started smoking cannabis when I was very young, around age 14, after 8th grade,” Cody explains. “Ever since the day I tried it, I knew that I wanted to do it as much as I could. The way I really started my channel was after I got arrested and placed on probation: All I wanted to do was talk about cannabis and all the crazy stories that I had. I’ve smoked every day since then, minus the six months that I was on probation when I was 16.”
Deeva, meanwhile, found her deep love for cannabis during bouts of depression and anxiety. “I began smoking for recreational purposes around the age of 19,” she says. “During that time, I also dealt with heavy depression and anxiety. My anxiety was so bad that I wouldn’t go out in public for unknown fears. The doctors prescribed me Xanax, and I couldn’t get with how lazy and even more depressed it made me. I threw all of my medicine out and started smoking cannabis more.”
Despite what might seem like one of the chillest ways to spend your time, life for WeedTubers is not without drama. In February 2017, YouTube experienced an Adpocalypse, the term coined to describe a time when many major brands pulled or paused their advertisements on YouTube. “The drama between YouTube and the WeedTubers was most likely because of the Adpocalypse, when PewDiePie had anti-Semetic images in his video,” Cody explains. “A large amount of YouTube advertisers pulled out and forced YouTube to clean up the platform. This hit every YouTuber with a lower cost per thousand, but for weed channels, it meant termination — all channels with anything cannabis-related got community guideline strikes, and most got deleted. I received two strikes (two videos removed) and made the decision to delete all of my videos, which was over 1,000 videos at the time (and more than 80 million views). That most likely saved my channel. I waited three months and had little to no income while I waited for the strikes to diminish.”
While Cody and his channel were spared from deletion, Deeva was less fortunate. “My channel was deleted on May 1st of 2018, and I’ll remember that day as if it were my own funeral,” she says. “I felt like my world was ripped from under me. Years of hard work had gone down the drain.”
It happened at a time when her channel had grown just large enough to provide some supplemental income. “Before I was deleted, I was on YouTube for over two years,” she says. “I was finally able to go part-time at my job so I could focus on YouTube. A month after doing so, my channel was deleted. Depression, anger, stress — everything tried to pull my spirits back down. I’m back to working a full-time job, but I’m also working on my channel 24/7 to bring it back to where I used to be, but even bigger and better.”
Growth can be especially hard for WeedTubers, Deeva says, since YouTube refuses to pay them, since they deem their content to be unfriendly for kids, meaning the only money they make is from sponsors (which could explain why one WeedTuber I emailed to request an interview for this article asked for $500 in return).
Despite the recent weed renaissance, YouTube still seems to be keeping a distance. “Being a WeedTuber is most certainly not a viable source of income at the moment,” says Cody. “YouTube is constantly cracking down on channels with anything related to cannabis, mainly people who promote products with sponsored videos. A video with smoking will 9 times out of 10 get demonetized and make basically nothing. It also has a high chance of getting age-restricted, which means no recommendations and no money. The only way to make money while smoking on YouTube is to not make it the main focus of the video. Even then, you’re rolling the dice: Cannabis creators run the risk every single day of getting three community guideline strikes and getting terminated. It’s a scary game.”
But still, these adamant creators continue smoking, not only for themselves, but for the thousands of lonely stoners who are just looking for a friend to smoke with. “If I’m not seshing online with my viewers,” Deeva says, “I’m watching and smoking along with someone else. It’s a great feeling to not feel so alone, even when you’re physically by yourself.”