How to let the world know that you enjoy using cannabis…
By Mickey Martin
We have all been there. Whether with friends, family, at work, or in the community, at one time or another we have all denied or hidden our use of cannabis because we did not want to be judged for our choice to use a safe and harmless plant to feel good. We have hidden in alleys and lied to police officers to avoid being detected as, God forbid, a cannabis consumer. The medical movement has shed new light on the subject, as many patients realize that their responsible use of cannabis is nothing to be ashamed of. There is a certain empowerment that comes with the realization that as a medicine, cannabis loses its stigma as a dangerous street drug, and in the safe and secure setting of a well lit collective it no longer feels like a “drug deal.”
I have begun to see many more people willing to stand up for their cannabis use in recent months and as we stand up and be accounted we see the tide beginning to turn. We are no longer the “counter culture.” We are the mainstream. We are your neighbor, your brother, the guy who coaches your son’s little league team (that is me), your dentist, and even quite possibly your boss. Cannabis users are everyone. The stereotype is dying, and as we see a growing tolerance for cannabis use, we see more people willing to admit that they have been in that closet all this time. If you are having trouble getting out of your closet (like if you are hiding this magazine from someone right now) you can follow these easy steps to free yourself from the guilt of not being who you are.
With Family: Your family is supposed to have unconditional love for you but we all know this is not always the case. Let’s face it. Some family members are notorious for looking down their noses and basing their fallacious decisions on the misinformation they have been brainwashed with for decades. Some may stand on religious principle, others may have a story of addiction that drives their judgment, or some may simply just be going with the flow of their surroundings. The good news is that many of these baseless judgments are passing, as the baby boomers become the grandparents and my generation becomes the responsible parents. Times they are a changing. Yet, there are still many family situations that drive people crazy because they simply fear what their family may think of them.
Be logical. Don’t get cut out of the will because you did not know what you were talking about. If you are a medical patient you would be surprised at how understanding your grandmother may be over treating your ailments with alternative therapies, and how sick of the prescription drug care and traditional medical industry she may be. Bring it up casually, as in “Did you see the CNN Report on Cannabis Medicines?” Or “Have you seen the reports on using cannabis as a medicine? You do not even have to smoke it anymore.” Look for a reaction. You may be surprised. A window of opportunity may open. Be armed with plenty of information on why cannabis is a good therapy for any number of conditions and if you feel comfortable you may choose to disclose that you have tried, or were considering trying, it to help you to feel better. You may not immediately gain the acceptance you hope, but at least you have planted a seed for future dialogue.
If you are not a patient but choose to use cannabis for adult use and want to come out of the closet, then you may approach it from a “legalization” issue, and see how your family responds. There is a lot of discussion about the economic distress of the country and the taxes that may be generated, coupled with the money saved on enforcement, may be the type of argument that resonates with even the most conservative folks in this day and age. Do your homework. Look at the estimated revenues and projected savings. The California Board of Equalization estimated that Cali alone would pull in 1.4 Billion. That is a lot of money when folks are losing their jobs and the state is cutting important services. That number does not include the income and payroll taxes from the industry created. It does not include the money spent from the many people who would find jobs in the industry. It has the potential to be a lot of money and in this day and age that is a strong argument for cannabis tolerance.
Make it basic for them. It is a plant. It is very safe. You like it as an option for adults. It is not nearly as dangerous as booze, or coffee for that matter. It is much less physically addictive. It is like a chess game. They may rebut with a “gateway drug” argument, or the old “Why would I want another substance for people to abuse?” Let them know that all drugs can serve as gateways, including (enter their drug of choice hear). Inform them that by jailing people for cannabis we create more criminals, thus more crime. Legalizing cannabis as just “another substance” would not only be economically beneficial but is the right thing to do to. We can no longer make criminals of almost 900,00 people in this country. It is simply unfair and hypocritical. Whether or not you disclose that you do not want to be a criminal any longer is at your discretion, but living a lie is always more difficult than a spirited debate.
With Friends: The arguments above are all very valid with friends as well, but remember that you should have chosen friends that like you for who you are. I mean, we cannot choose our sister or uncle, but we surely can find a better friend than one that is intolerant of using cannabis as you choose. Understandably friendships may transcend your cannabis use, or visa versa, but it should not be a deal breaker to someone is really your friend. If they do not use cannabis then be sure to let them know that you respect that choice of theirs and that you would hope they respected your choice also. If it makes them uncomfortable then perhaps you agree to abstain from using cannabis while with spending time with them. Compromise should be an open part of every friendship, and if they do not understand that your choice to use cannabis is yours and yours alone to make then it may be time to evaluate that relationship and decide if you really want such an intolerant person in your life. You never know. Your “conservative” friend may look at you and say, “I have been hiding my cannabis use from YOU because I thought you may not approve.” You would be surprised.
At Work: First and foremost, do not jeopardize your livelihood if you think that you may get fired. Being in the work closet is perfectly fine if you believe that you would lose your job if people knew. But, if you sense that a co-worker or your boss may be tolerant, say they smile at a cannabis related joke or if you smell it on them after a long lunch and they acknowledge it, I would consider revealing that you are one f the faithful. Having a cannabis ally or two at work never hurt. It may create camaraderie that blossoms into a “Mutual Cannabis Relationship” (MCR) in which you share, discuss, and smile mysteriously throughout the workday. You can look out for one another and let them know they need some Visene if they look like they need it. You may find more common ground through the social aspects of cannabis than you may think. Your new “Cannabis Co-Worker” (C2W) may become a close friend. There may even be an opportunity to combine resources and get your cannabis more economically, or save gas money by carpooling to the collective. You definitely do not want to lose your job over cannabis, but crack a Bob Marley joke one day and look around the room to see the reaction. The ones smiling sheepishly are your best bets for forming strong cannabis alliances in the workplace. Patients need to remember that employers do not have to honor your recommendation, so beware of using that card if you do not have to if you are still in the work closet.
To Law Enforcement: I think Dennis Peron put it best when he said, “There is no such thing as a dead warrior.” I always think that a law enforcement officer does not want to know about cannabis use, it is not my job to educate him unwillingly. I am not a big fan of creating a dialogue with an officer about cannabis, medical or not, if I do not have to. They have an opinion already one way or another and chances are my soapbox is not going to make or break their opinion, and if the conversation goes horribly wrong I could end up in jail for the night. It is not really in either of or interest to discuss my medical or personal choice reasons for using cannabis. We both have better things we could be doing.
That being said, if you are a patient in a medical cannabis state and you are within the bounds of the law and confronted by a police officer, it is best to be upfront and honest. If an officer catches you with or rightfully believes you are using cannabis, it is best to show them your documentation for using cannabis, look them in the eye as if you have done nothing wrong, and be respectful. Many officers are understanding of a patients need for cannabis, and will not bat an eye at it. There is always a danger of a rogue officer who chooses not to respect the will of the people and can still confiscate your medicine and put you in jail. Know your rights and know the law. The best bet is to just avoid the situation altogether. It is not worth the gamble to disclose anything you are not questioned about. Don’t jump out of the closet and into the backseat of a squad car.
If you are not a patient and confronted by law enforcement my best advice is to run. JUST KIDDING. While it sucks that you are in the position you are in and that the prohibition of a plant may get you arrested, if you are caught you are caught. My advice would be to be respectful and just tell the officer that you made a mistake by breaking the law as it stands. If you think an educational speech about cannabis will help, then by all means educate them, but do not agitate the situation. They have the opportunity to make your life a living hell for the night or to charge you $100. I say go for the money option, but that is just me. Always try and defuse the situation, at least until you are in handcuffs. Then if you want to get all activist on them on your way to the station, I say go for it.
As an Activist: Being a cannabis activist is a commitment and coming out of the closet and becoming an activist for the cause can be a smooth transition. As an activist you have made a decision to dedicating time, resources, or both to moving the cause along. You have decided to bare the torch for the issue and fly your colors proudly. Many people coming out of the closet are moving straight to activism because they for once in their life feel free and have something they can grasp onto and are a part of. A person is motivated by the realization that they no longer have to hide in the shadows, and from this can grow some of the most spirited activists. Deciding that you will make a phone call to a pubic official as a cannabis consumer, or attending a cannabis inspired rally or event that you can join in the process, or joining a policy group that is driving change in the way society views cannabis is all you need to do to come out as an activist. To begin spreading the words of change in your community one must be sure that they are confident and resolute in their position. A person who aspires to join the cause will seek out education on the subject of cannabis and be armed with the knowledge to confront opposition forces. Being an activist is not for everyone, but just because you just came out of the cannabis closet recently does not mean you cannot be a powerful activist immediately. Activism is as simple as committing to your belief and making a conscious decision to advance that cause in any way possible.
If everyone who uses cannabis came out of the closet and refused to let the fear of prohibition rule the day there would be overwhelming support for the cause. If there were a consolidated effort to educate those who look down upon cannabis use and make them understand that cannabis, for you, is a good thing we could change the hearts and minds of a nation and of a world. If the masses decided that they were sick and tired of feeling like a criminal, sick and tired of having to hide, and sick and tired of being scared for their right to use the cannabis plant as a grown ass person then we would move mountains, or at least plant the south facing sides of them. Begin to think about coming out of that closet in your life. Do you need to really hide your use of a safe and often beneficial and healing plant? Of a plant? Really? I think you may find that you are far from alone and that our paranoia of being discovered is far overblown. Whether you are a soccer mom, a business professional, a public official, or whatever, stand up and be accounted for. We are here to support you. If we do not begin to speak up we will be hiding in that damn closet forever, and eventually we will run out of air in there. Think about it.
*** This Article Originally Ran in West Coast Cannabis in 2009 ***