How to Come Out as Pro-Cannabis
Have you ever been ready to tell the people in your life that you are pro-cannabis, but have felt frightened about doing so? I understand the reservation… after about 10 years of off-and-on cannabis use, I have just recently shared this “past-time” with my family members and former coworkers. Regardless of the reason for your coming out, or the scope of the role that cannabis plays in your life - publicly sharing your affinity for cannabis can be downright scary. It’s no secret that there is stigma around cannabis use. There are already people out there doing great work within the industry to buck the stigma, but your audience may still see cannabis use as something… sub-par.
That said, I have recently taken the leap and told anyone and everyone who will listen that I am going to become a cannabis writer, and that, oh yeah, I use pot, too. I feel exhilarated by it. So, keep reading and determine if it’s time for you to do the same! Telling people we love about our real truth can be intimidating, but when we can be honest, real conversations and connection ensue.
Sharing with Parents
Let’s be real… some parents are more “down” with marijuana than others. We all know those parents who will, un-phased, light up a joint with their adult children and friends and have an open conversation. There are other parents who have a past with cannabis, pre-legalization, and are still against it because they don’t see that cannabis has a place in a modern, productive society. And finally, there are parents who just say “no”. What I’m finding out is that people’s reaction to their children using cannabis can ebb and flow over the years. For example, while I would have placed my mom in the “just-say-no” category 10 years ago, now, I’d say she’s coming around to the idea that I can use cannabis responsibly and that it might even provide a benefit to my life.
So, when you do talk to your parents, be sure to keep the following in mind:
Do not indulge prior to your discussion
While I am obviously not against toking up (!) it’s important that you treat this discussion as a serious one. Demonstrate that you have made the conscious decision when you have all of your faculties.
Now, this may not be as important for some parents. However, especially for parents that are potentially in the “just-say-no” category, its important for them to hear facts and figures about cannabis usage to assuage their concerns
Focus on the positive
If you can, talk to your parents about how your cannabis use improves your life and helps you to be more productive; concrete examples will help!
“Mom, while using cannabis at home, I came up with a new idea about how to better market the product I manage. I shared with my boss and she was very enthusiastic about implementing my idea.”
“Dad, I vaped before going to the seminar last week and it calmed my nerves enough so that I was able to network without anxiety; I made a connection with someone who I am planning to partner with next month!”
Prepare to limit any defensiveness
Even if you follow the above tactics, your parents may not “get it” right away. If this is the case, don’t lose your cool. It’s important to limit defensiveness and let reason rule over your emotions. If you behave badly, it’s possible that cannabis will quickly resume it’s former place as a “taboo” topic that you won’t be able to open up about in the future. Focus on the long game, not winning the conversation here and now.
It is important to acknowledge that not all parents will be accepting of your lifestyle, even if you do keep your “coming out” conversation positive and objective. We can’t forget that for decades, our parents have heard a lot of negative propaganda about the dangers of marijuana, many of which I would argue are unfounded or based largely on fear. Even so, it’s important to be compassionate with your parents. If they don’t want to talk about cannabis, honor that… for awhile. Bring it up at another time when you know you have their trust.
Talking to Your Employer/Coworkers… or Maybe Not
So, I have to be honest and say that this one can get a little sticky.
Corporate World/Large Corporations
In the current corporate environment, outwardly sharing your affinity for cannabis is, uh, frowned upon. Even in states where cannabis use is legalized, including Washington and Colorado, workers with most corporate positions have to be cautious about sharing this personal tidbit. In time, my hope is that corporations learn to loosen restrictions and realize the benefits that can come with allowing your workforce to self-care.
The effects of cannabis use by employees to a corporation’s bottom line are hotly debated. There are mostly opinions in this sphere, but not as much concrete data. I’m looking forward to more occupational research studies about the effects of cannabis in the coming years, now that more states are legalizing recreational use. However, there are already some studies that point to the fact that cannabis use by employees is not all bad news for corporations.
According to this article in The Washington Post, cannabis use by employees can actually lead to decreased absenteeism in the workplace. The article highlights that researchers have been able to identify a correlation, but not causation, for this result (it has not yet been proven that medical marijuana use directly results in the reduction of sick days taken by the average employee). However, one hypothesis the article presents is that in states where medical marijuana is available, overall drinking consumption decreases, and this could be one of the factors in the reduction of sick days. I mean, maybe not all of us, but I can bet that a lot of us are guilty of calling in sick once-or-twice on account of the devil’s drink. And, as a former people manager, I can tell you that absenteeism due to heavy drinking… uh, it’s a thing.
So, here it is: if you’re not sure whether or not you can share your fondness for pot with your employer, then I would suggest that you don’t say anything. What you don’t say can’t harm you. In the meanwhile, refresh yourself on your company’s HR policies (Employee Handbook, anyone?) to inform yourself on your employer’s drug policy. It it mentions marijuana (and most of them still do), then proceed with caution.
If you are a federal worker, sorry. Don’t even go there. If you want to openly smoke and work for the government, well, then you better start getting involved in weed activism! For now, it’s simply not an option.
There are many people who work for companies with more liberal drug policies, smaller companies who are indifferent, or within cannabis industry itself. These folks don’t have to tread as lightly with employers about using marijuana, so it’s perfectly natural that a discussion of cannabis would come about with your boss or your coworkers.
Tips for discussing weed at work:
Follow the other person’s lead
Tread lightly at first, as you can never “un-say” something
Don’t reveal any stupid decisions that you’re made while under the influence
We all do this when recounting our alcohol history, and I find this so silly - even if someone wasn’t present, hearing about a time in which you were not at your best can negatively impact their perception of your professional reputation; so, don’t share something you wouldn’t want your aunt or uncle to know!
If you do participate in a “high happy hour” after work, ensure that topics of conversation don’t cross work-boundaries
Cannabis can help to lubricate social situations, just like alcohol; however, make sure that you maintain appropriate boundaries - remember, you have to see these people Monday morning, in the harsh light of reality!
Talking to Your Doctor
I have found that doctors are some of the most receptive people when it comes to talking about cannabis. Disclaimer: I currently live in Seattle, a city known for it’s liberal, chill, laissez-faire attitude toward, well, most anything. Most Seattleites are either on the “weed bus” or are politely indifferent to the subject. That said, doctors obviously have a professional responsibility to only advocate for substances and behaviors that can benefit their patients, so I don’t take their glossiness on the subject lightly. I have talked to doctors about my struggles with alcohol in the past, and I can assure you that they don’t consider this vice to be as benign as smoking marijuana.
When speaking to your doctor, I would also recommend the same tips as highlighted within the “parent” section above. Remain objective, focus on the positive that cannabis contributes to your health and happiness, and they should be receptive. If not, well, I’ll leave that up to you :)
Speaking with Cannabis Skeptics
Well, this category is a downer. However, in case you are prepping for a conversation with a cannabis skeptic, I would recommend that first, you do your cannabis homework. Or, to help out, I have curated something for you. Review this article by the women at Nice Paper; this handy guide walks you through the most common arguments against pot and how you can counter with an accurate and informed retort.
Addressing Total Strangers
Here’s the thing with strangers… you never know what beliefs are under-the-hood. Even if the cashier ringing up your groceries has dread locks, and you think he might be an ally, just be careful - he might be straight-edge and not interested in a long, drawn-out conversation about your involvement in cannabis. So, just be mindful - I recommend mirroring the person you are talking to with, and if your affinity does come up, speak to it objectively.
This becomes especially salient if you work within the cannabis industry. For example, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I’m going to respond to the question, “what do you do?” For years, I had the same stock response, but now that I’m on day 2 of self-employment (feels so great!) I have to edit my response. My plan is to simply say “I’m a cannabis writer” and cut it short at that. Then, if people are curious to learn more, they can inquire and I will share. If not, we move on to the next moment. I’m hoping that this approach demonstrates respect for the person I am talking to but also helps to "normalize” my chosen occupation in the eyes of others.
***Side note: I dislike the question “what do you do?”. I’d never thought about it in-depth until recently, when my husband pointed out that, while most people ask this out of simple curiosity or for the sake of conversation, the question almost comes across as “how much do you make?”. I’m looking for other ways to ask this question upon meeting new people, and I would like to replace it with something less income related, such as, “what are you passionate about?” Let me know if you have tried other ways of framing this question and how it has worked!
There’s always going to be haters. Don’t let them knock you off-course. To each their own, and if you’ve found something that works for you, don’t be pressured into abandoning that. You are your #1 priority.
I want to know what has worked for you!
Comment and let me know if you’ve tried any of the above strategies when outing yourself as a cannabis user! Do you have any other tips or tricks? Everyone’s social and professional situation is different, but if we can start talking about best practices for speaking to cannabis and why we support it, then we can start to change the hearts and minds of those around us. A true grassroots revolution (haha… wink).