Jasmine Sandlas has broken many barriers throughout her career, but arguably one of the most lit moments was when she sparked up a joint on stage at the 5X Festival Block Party in 2018.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and set the stage for a moment that inevitably sparked a much larger discussion in the community.
During the performance in 2018, Sandlas was performing her hit track “Baadal” with Intense, and passed the joint to him on stage where he quickly took a drag.
What felt like a casual moment between two performers ended up creating some controversy for Sandlas after the festival.
Many were not fans of her bold and unapologetic decision, and Sandlas received a grave, yet unsurprising, amount of hate for her actions.
The result of her actions ultimately points towards an unsettling double standard in the South Asian community when it comes to cannabis.
Why was the outrage directed towards Sandlas but not her fellow performer Intense?
Male Punjabi artists have been making songs about cannabis for years. Everything from Elly Mangat's track “Chronic,” to Veet Baljit and Deep Jandu’s “Marijuana,” allude to smoking weed or are literally about weed, yet society has proven to be more lenient with them over the women in the industry who also choose to be open about their cannabis usage. The flack Sandlas received is a testament to this.
We must of course acknowledge that cannabis is already a very taboo topic in the South Asian community. Although it has been an integral and vibrant part of our history dating back to as early as 2000 to 1400 B.C, there is still a lot of stigma associated with it. Usage in any capacity whether recreational or medicinal, is often frowned upon.
With that being said, a clear double standard still exists in the community when it comes to cannabis consumption in modern times.
To put things into perspective, we must question why male artists like those listed above, as well as Intense, who took a hit of the joint on stage, did not receive the same backlash from society that Sandlas did.
Upset fans took to twitter to share their outrage after her performance, and even Youtube videos and articles were made unpacking the incident as if it were some unforgivable scandal. Yet, her male counterparts in the industry barely face any repercussions for practically doing the same thing.
One Twitter user in particular wrote about Sandlas saying, “I’m sure she has teenage fans who see that. Is that a positive role model? Should we commend that?”
But the question I ask is, since when did we begin to look at artists to be our role models?
For years musicians and other creatives have been scrutinized and blamed for showcasing certain lifestyles or habits in their art. In fact, a plethora of scholarly articles online all seem to suggest that artists are “glamourising” substance use, and their songs can even “fuel addictions.”
However, we fail to realize that artists are people just like you and I. Without fail, they will make their own choices, life decisions, and form their own opinions.
If that means drinking, smoking, or anything in between, why should they be held accountable for decisions that others make?
Contrary to popular belief, artists cannot be blamed for the decisions of teens or children who listen to their music, just like video games are not to blame for violence. It is solely an individual's own choice to commit the deeds they do.
Sandlas is her authentic self and does not shy away from showing the world who she is. Instead of judging her, we should allow her actions to remind us to live life without fear of judgement, to be independent thinkers, and ultimately to have fun!
She is a strong example of a South Asian woman who does not care about what anybody else thinks, and the hate she receives as a result of smoking weed says less about her, and more about society's strong tendency to pressure artists, and in particular female artists, to be “good role models.”
An artist today is expected to be more than just a musician, but also a humanitarian, public educator, advocate, and of course, a good role model.
It’s high time we stray away from pressuring our artists, and just appreciate them for who they are--their own selves.
Sandlas is a change-maker in many ways, but this iconic moment at the 5X Festival Block Party ultimately takes the cake. Her one action holds so much power even years later, and paves the way for more and more South Asian women to challenge their narrative, and be unapologetic in who they are.
If anything, she should be commended for taking steps forward in challenging the stigma associated with cannabis in the South Asian community, one that seems to have forgotten the long history of the sacred plant within our culture.
It’s important to note as well, that her courage definitely transcends beyond cannabis, and applies to many other aspects of life.
So at this point if there are any questions you have for Sandlas on her cannabis usage, hopefully it’s based on whether she prefers to smoke indica or sativa.
Manisha is a writer and reporter with previous radio and television experience, who is passionate about connecting audiences to the stories and voices that matter to them most. Check her out on Instagram: @exclusivelymanisha