Pot magic show ‘Smokus Pocus’ leaves Phoenix weed lovers empowered | Phoenix New Times
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Pot magic show ‘Smokus Pocus’ leaves Phoenix weed lovers empowered

Magician Ben Zabin performs the laid back show with bongs, lighters and jars of weed to celebrate what is often considered taboo.
Ben Zabin smokes out of a bong at his cannabis-themed magic show, “Smokus Pocus,” on March 1 at Phoenix Center for the Arts’ Third Street Theater.
Ben Zabin smokes out of a bong at his cannabis-themed magic show, “Smokus Pocus,” on March 1 at Phoenix Center for the Arts’ Third Street Theater. Marnie Jordan/Cronkite News
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With the benefits of cannabis legalization still being debated throughout the country, one traveling magician is trying to destigmatize its use.

Ben Zabin brought his “Smokus Pocus” show to Phoenix in early March as part of his nationwide tour.

Zabin described the show as projecting a laid back and humorous atmosphere that includes “pretty crazy stuff” with bongs, lighters and jars of weed. Though recreational cannabis was legalized in Arizona in 2020, Zabin said that his show helps to destigmatize the use of weed and empower cannabis users nationwide.

“One of my goals is for people to leave the theater more proud of being a weed lover than they were when they walked in,” he said. “I think it’s special for people to be in a packed room to celebrate something that has normally been taboo, and it definitely feels liberating.”

Besides its stop in Arizona, the show is scheduled to visit weed-friendly states, including Oregon, Washington and Massachusetts. But Zabin said he wants to expand his show to places where it might not be as welcome.

“Right now all of our shows are in cities that have at least medicinal access. I’ve been really wanting to try a red state like Texas or Georgia. Hopefully that’ll be happening over the next few months.”

Morgan Fox is political director for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which is a cannabis policy reform organization. Since its formation in 1970, NORML has lobbied for protective laws and advocated for the rights of cannabis users. Fox said that shows and events like Zabin’s are a byproduct of a change in the perception of cannabis use.

“I think there are a lot more entertainers now that are willing to cater specifically to cannabis consumers because of the stigma being significantly lessened,” Fox said. “And the fact that they are putting this media and this entertainment out touches people who might not have thought of this before and then further helps to destigmatize cannabis.”

Fox added that Zabin’s show can help change perceptions about people who use cannabis.

“It certainly does help normalize the fact that cannabis use is not something to be ashamed of as long as you are using it in a healthy and responsible manner, and that a lot more people consume cannabis than I think many people realize,” he said.

While Zabin and NORML push for the normalization and legalization of cannabis use, other organizations have been singing a different tune. Smart Approaches to Marijuana, also known as SAM, was founded in 2013 after Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana use.

In its 2023-2024 Impact Report, SAM asserted marijuana’s capability to cause mental health issues and its potential to cause adverse physical effects are being ignored.

“The connections between marijuana use and negative consequences for mental and physical health, among other risks, are often lost in conversations surrounding legalization,” the report said.

The report also included data that linked marijuana legalization to an increase in the number of fatal car crashes in states where it has been legalized, such as Colorado and Michigan.

Despite dissent from organizations like SAM, Phoenix resident Aaron Hendrick, who attended the “Smokus Pocus” show, said the audience represented an array of cannabis users and was a great example of how varied users are.

“It gets every walk of life out — from doctors or lawyers to just everyday people,” he said.

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org
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