It Still Takes Courage to Talk About Cannabis Publicly
At a recent cannabis seminar, speaker and activist Wanda James challenged the audience to talk about cannabis freely with our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. She believes it is part of the normalization of cannabis and the more we talk about it, the more we can inform and engage a sometimes skeptical audience. One of reasons this struck me is that Wanda has been “out” for years.
She was the first African-American dispensary owner in Denver (back in 2009).
She is applying for a dispensary and grow license in New Jersey along with basketball star Al Harrington.
And, she freely admits that she partakes in cannabis on a daily basis.
We even learned that her favorite strain is Tangerine and Tangerine hybrids. And instead of calling it getting high or being stoned, Wanda calls it being elevated. Again, she is taking on stoner stereotypes to show that responsible, hard-working, successful adults can also use cannabis on a daily basis if they so wish.
The hardest part can be telling those you love
In my own case, I had been working (mostly) quietly on an introductory cannabis book after I began researching cannabis when my sister Theresa passed from cancer and was put on a myriad of opiods. As I became immersed in the intriguing, misunderstood history of cannabis, I decided I needed to share this information with the world. When the book was nearly finished and was about to be posted on Amazon.com I knew I had to let some key people around me know what I was doing and where my passion had led me. I started by calling my Mom. What you have to understand is that my Mom is sweet, understanding, and supportive so the call should have been easy, but I was worried about the stigma that still surrounds cannabis.
Although I grew up as one of 13 kids, Mom always made each of us feel special and she knew about our achievements and challenges. She also has an understated sense of humor. One of my favorite examples of this is when I went to college at Georgetown, my Mom was cleaning my room and found a copy of Playboy. In her letter to me, she said “I found one of your magazines. In the future, I would recommend Gray’s Anatomy for a better anatomical resource.” I was so busted but she did it with gentle humor. It still makes me smile.
When I called my Mom, I was a bit nervous — even though I’m in my mid-fifties and Mom is in her mid-eighties! Clearly, as an adult I can largely do what I please but she is still my Mom. We talked about how I got started researching cannabis and that my efforts had resulted in a book being published. She had some reservations but was proud that I had put in the work to be a published author.
Then, I called my sister Annie who is a college professor with a medical/health background (she is a Physical Therapist). She was also supportive and we ended up having a great conversation about CBD (cannabidiol, the element in cannabis that does not get you high but fights inflammation).
From there, I called my youngest brother because his high school son had just been suspended for smoking cannabis on school grounds. By the end of the conversation, he was ready to recommend my book to his son- and to point out the section that talks about brain development and that young adults under 25 probably should not consume cannabis. I told him my message in that section of the book is “I’m not saying not ever, I’m saying not now.”
I also began to let my friends and business associates know about my new passion. In a few cases, I was asked the standard questions, “is it addictive?” “isn’t it a gateway drug?” and “what about driving high?” But these questions led to good discussions and helped me practice answering objections/reservations.
Going public takes courage — here are some tips
Going forward, I will continue to try to naturally discuss cannabis with a wide audience. And I do have a few tips that I’ve learned:
1. Start with the history of cannabis and especially hemp. Who can argue against growing a useful fiber that is not intoxicating?
2. Point out that cannabis has great medical benefits and point out how much it has helped epileptic children.
3. Mention that it can be a partial answer to the opiod crisis and there are historical reports that go back hundreds of years that argue for cannabis as a replacement -or partial replacement- for alcohol and drugs.
4. Explain that not all cannabis is intoxicating and that CBD naturally fights inflammation.
5. Talk about the failed war on drugs and that legalizing cannabis is a social/racial justice issue and that cannabis has been used to fill jail cells with many non-violent offenders.
6. If you get this far, give them a copy of The Essential Cannabis Book: A Field Guide for the Curious by yours truly, to expand their cannabis education further.
I wish you the best of luck and know that there are an army of us behind you!
— Rob Mejia