‘Stoner’. ‘Pothead’. These are terms many people use to refer to cannabis users. Terms that have negative connotations attached to them. The people who are referred to by these names are often unfairly associated with being lazy individuals, lounging around all day in the comfort of their living room. You know the stereotype; always high, doing nothing in front of the TV as they eat from a seemingly endless pile of junk food. The term ‘pothead’, before it was used to refer to daily cannabis users, literally meant ‘stupid person’. Whereas ‘stoner’ allegedly comes from an Old English phrase that means ‘to make hard or indifferent’, referring in its modern use to some perceived apathy from cannabis users.
These images, and worse, have existed for a long time and have only been propagated by popular media. After all, it’s a far more entertaining image than your average citizen going about their day and happening to consume a joint or two along the way. Your average cannabis user is not just the stereotypical, lazy, good-for-nothing stoner who exists for the sole purpose of sparking up. Cannabis users are people that come from all walks of life – professionals, artists, entrepreneurs, and patients. They are friends, family, and neighbours. You may even be one of them.
So why is coming out as a ‘stoner’, a ‘pothead’, or even just a cannabis user still a difficult process? Is it because of the negative connotation these terms have? The images associated with these terms are antiquated perceptions that need to be updated to reflect the current times. What was once used as terms to dismiss cannabis users are now used as identifiers and that is likely not going to change. With that said, YOU can help change how our society looks at ‘stoners’ and ‘potheads’ by coming out as a proud cannabis user.
2019’s Cannabis Culture
It’s fascinating to read about the rapid rise of cannabis’s popularity. Once regarded as just an illegal drug, cannabis is now hailed as a sort of miracle plant. Many people still use cannabis for recreational purposes, of course, but an increasing number of medical patients are already switching to cannabis for relief of their symptoms. People use it for a variety of medical problems – from simple muscle pain to treatment-resistant epilepsy. Taking this into consideration, it’s no wonder why the cannabis industry is booming.
A recent study done by BDS Analytics showed how society’s views of cannabis have changed. They found that more people are using cannabis and cannabis-derived products compared to the past years. Furthermore, their study also revealed that there has been a decline in the number of people who oppose cannabis use. These findings suggest that people are now more accepting and tolerant of cannabis as it becomes more common.
Canada was the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. Sales are up from about CA$54 million dollars in October 2018 to CA$86 million dollars in May 2019. These numbers may be far from market predictions, but it’s not due to of lack of interest. The production and approval of applications simply can’t meet the demand.
So knowing all this, why do we still have some difficulties coming out as a ‘stoner’, a ‘pothead’, or a cannabis user?
We may be more open to using cannabis now, but some people still find it hard to admit they do. One reason is because of its long history of being classified as an illegal drug. More significant than that though is the stigma surrounding cannabis users. Because of incredibly problematic and often racist propaganda (dating back to the 1930s), cannabis users were portrayed as dangerous addicts who could not be trusted. This social stigma has persevered throughout time despite the obvious flaws in its connotations.
Even in Canada where recreational cannabis is already legal, 50% of users are not comfortable using it in public places. More than half of the users also claim they have no plans of telling people close to them that they’re using cannabis. The stigma around being a ‘stoner’ or ‘pothead’ is so deeply ingrained in our society that legalization, both medical and recreational, won’t easily change it without a major cultural shift in its attitudes towards cannabis users.
Coming Out as a Stoner at Work and Home
The workplace stigma surrounding cannabis is especially difficult. Some companies completely prohibit the use of cannabis, even for medical reasons. Others impose highly restrictive rules. While it is understandable that many jobs may require an employee to remain off of cannabis while on the clock (ie. involving heavy machinery, high stakes decision making) this does not mean that cannabis has to be completely separate from the workplace. Many offices have drinks at the end of the week, or while on lunch meetings and keep beer and wine available in the fridge as a reward for employees to treat themselves with. Would it be fair to judge these people for doing something so common in offices across the world? No. And by that same token people should be willing to give leeway when it comes to using cannabis at the workplace. An adult should be able to be trusted to use cannabis just as they would be trusted to use alcohol. Cannabis users are just as trustworthy and reliable as anyone else and should be treated as such.
It should also be noted that cannabis has a whole realm of medical uses, whereas alcohol is a strictly recreational substance. Should someone suffering from Crohn’s not be able to use the medicine that works for them at the workplace because of preconceived notions about cannabis users? No. That would be incredibly unfair and short-sighted. The same goes for companies that tell their employees they cannot use cannabis outside of the workplace. Your superiors at work have no place in your homes and the decisions, you make as adults inside of them. This kind of control is archaic and borderline dictatorial. The workplace must adjust with the rest of society in how it views cannabis users as it may be reinforcing negative and unnecessary stereotypes that keep other users from being open, as they do not want to be associated with anything that suggests being unproductive.
Whether you’re a ‘stoner’ ‘pothead’ or a medical cannabis user, how do you come out?
- You must decide when the time is right and who you are comfortable telling. Remember that as an adult you have the ultimate say in what you do in your life.
- If you are concerned about the person’s reaction then make sure the place is comfortable and there’s enough time for a proper discussion.
- Prepare yourself for adverse reactions. How your family and employer react to your use of cannabis may vary. Some will support you and your choices, but then again, some won’t.
- If you’re using medical cannabis and you want to tell your employer, you may feel more prepared if you have your doctor’s recommendations as well as a legitimate medical cannabis prescription.
- Educate others. Now is a good time to educate the people in your life about cannabis and chip away at the stigma that surrounds ‘stoners’, ‘potheads’, and cannabis users. So read up on the benefits of cannabis, the different methods of consumption, and new research studies on medical marijuana. Be sure to let them know the benefits cannabis has had on YOU and how it has impacted your life. You will find it’s easier to change their minds if they see the positive effects it has on you.
- Accept their reactions and feelings. If they disagree with you, even after explaining your reasoning and attempting to educate them, then accept their reactions and respect their feelings. There may always be ideological differences between you and your family, as well as your employer, especially if the generation gap is big. They may not accept your decision to use cannabis right now, but hopefully with time, education, and respect, you may be able to help them come around.
Beyond the Plant
Cannabis is more than just a recreational drug. It is a plant that saves lives. A medicine that is as effective as many of the drugs sold by pharmaceutical companies. And unlike pharmaceutical companies, it offers fewer side effects since it is a natural compound. The growing number of research studies on the medicinal benefits of cannabis will further help our society look beyond marijuana as just a recreational drug, but a life-saving medicine.
Technological advancements have also made it possible for growers to breed different types of cannabis strains, some of which were specifically created to contain more CBD than THC. These high-CBD strains will benefit patients who want to try cannabis-derived products but don’t want the strong psychoactive effects of THC.
The way society looks at cannabis is slowly changing, but despite the increasing number of people using cannabis (be it for recreational or medical reasons), there is still a stigma surrounding cannabis users – all thanks to the successful propaganda against the plant. Early cannabis laws in the US were rooted in bigotry and even today, as an ever-increasing number of American states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, laws are used across the US to arrest people for non-violent crimes. It is because of this fallacy ridden mindset towards users that negative perceptions still attach themselves to cannabis.
Because of the shame imposed on cannabis users, people are far less inclined to ask questions or learn potential risks about the plant. This mindset encourages people to use it in private, and this pattern carries on in the younger generation. Cannabis can be an incredibly beneficial albeit complex plant and studies have shown that teenagers should never use THC as their brains are still developing and cannabinoids can affect that growth. However, if teenagers are only ever told that cannabis is bad and that only ‘stoners’ or ‘potheads’ use it without giving any real advice or information, they will not get a proper grasp of the risks they should be aware of.
We are so much more than just stoners, potheads, and cannabis users – the lazy burnouts portrayed time and time again by the media in movies and on television. We are people. People who simply enjoy using cannabis because it helps us to be better individuals. Or because it gives us relief and takes away our pain and discomfort. Or maybe even because we simply like the way it feels. It doesn’t matter the reason. The choice to use cannabis is simply that. A choice. Just like how you dress, what you eat and what you read. We should never be judged on our choices as long as they do not negatively affect other people in our lives.
So let’s break the stigma around cannabis users. Come out and educate people. Wear that joint behind your ear with pride. Let’s create a more positive image of cannabis users so that future generations do not need to hide in shame or fear.