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How to Fight the Stigma Around Cannabis

How to Fight the Stigma Around Cannabis

            Although cannabis has been legal in Washington State for some time, a societal stigma unfortunately still exists around marijuana consumption. Despite the numerous benefits legalization has brought to our state and it’s people, cannabis use has not yet achieved a status of normalization and that is something that needs to change. Responsible recreational and medicinal use is often stigmatized in a way that alcohol and prescription drug use simply (and rightfully) isn’t. This has sent thousands of users into the shadows as they feel forced to hide their use from employers, family, and friends in a way that they never would need to with alcohol. So what can be done to normalize cannabis use?

Below are several ways that you can fight the stigmatization of cannabis.

  1. Reject and push back against insensitive language and stereotypes about marijuana – while they may seem harmless, phrases like “stoner” and “pothead” dehumanize cannabis users. These phrases, as well as the stereotypes that cannabis users are lazy and unmotivated, suggest that we are “morally flawed and inferior.” These coupled with criminalization on both the state and federal level have created a culture where users are considered less than human and even undeserving of basic rights. People have lost their lives and livelihood because of these “harmless” associations. Roundly reject and challenge this type of language.
  2. Educate people about the real history and cost behind cannabis prohibition – for people unsure about cannabis remind them where all these stigmas REALLY came from. The history of criminalization of cannabis and how the law has been applied has always disproportionately targeted immigrants, people of color, and the poor. Educate them on the tremendous costs of the War on Drugs. Are we not better than the angry, racist psychotics like Harry J. Anslinger and the producers of Reefer Madness? Of course, we are! So why are we not using cannabis to fight the opiate epidemic right now? How much of it is linked to these old stupid arguments that were originally dog whistles to reactionaries?
  3. Bring skeptics to events and places where cannabis can be discussed – it’s easy to be against cannabis use if you don’t know any users. Events like Spark the Conversation allow people to meet patients and people in the industry that often challenged the harmful, pre-conceived notions that exist in public. If you can’t go far, bring them to a local event here at Agate Dreams or just bring them through the door. They will see smart, intelligent (and dare I say good looking, and also humble) people who are advocates for responsible use and can tell you first hand how cannabis enriches people’s lives.
  4. Be an advocate on social media and in the real world – share articles that present legalization and cannabis use in a positive light. Link to that study that shows how legalization has given the state more tax revenue, or how teen cannabis use in the state is on the decline. Share the stories of people who have had their lives enhanced by this wonderful plant. Challenge ignorant posts. Ask your friends to share your posts. Gandhi told us to “be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Hopefully, this post has inspired you to push for normalization and fight the ridiculous stigma around cannabis. No matter the stigma, know that there are many out there who think just like you!  Toke on with pride, Dreamers!

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