My 9-Year-Old Knows Good People Who Smoke Pot — I'm One Of Them

Is the ignorance surrounding cannabis really a lack of knowledge or is it just reticence to change?

“But Mom, you’re a good person, and you smoke pot.” 

My son wore his concern with a frown as he read the headlines. According to the new Attorney General, “Good people don’t smoke pot.”

“There’s something we have to remember,” I soothed my worried nine-year-old, “our attorney general is not a young guy. For his entire life, Mr. Sessions has been brainwashed. Since he was a kid, he’s been taught that marijuana is a horrible, dangerous drug. When someone is told something often enough, they believe it. Remember when we talked about how some people don’t believe in evolution or dinosaurs?”

“Ah!” realization crept over his face and amusement eased into his eyes. For my budding scientist, the concept of creationism was one of the greatest puzzles of his young life.

When he first saw a TV show discussing creationism, he ran to me, flabbergasted. “Mom, did you know there are people who don’t believe science is real? How can someone not believe in science?” he demanded. “I mean, you can see dinosaur bones in a museum.”

We discuss pot frequently in our house. We have to; I’m constantly rectifying the damage inflicted by social stigma & propaganda. Most marijuana users are perfectly good, ordinary people, even though society tries to convince us otherwise.

That led to a discussion about passion and irrational belief. “There are people out there — sometimes even smart people —who are so convinced of the stories they’ve been told that they ignore science. They pretend the facts aren’t real.”

I drew a comparison to his beloved NHL team, the New York Islanders. “You believe with all your heart that the NY Islanders are the best team, right? But is there any proof they’re the best? No, and even when they’re losing, you’re still certain they’re the best. That’s because your dad has brainwashed you since birth. You have irrational passion. The NJ Devils are really the best team.” He laughed but understood.

That’s just how brainwashing works. Despite all the proof out there that dinosaurs are real, some people still don’t believe in them. Similarly, despite all the evidence out there, that the benefits of cannabis are real, our attorney general still doesn’t believe it.

We discuss pot frequently in our house. We have to; I’m constantly rectifying the damage inflicted by social stigma & propaganda. Most marijuana users are perfectly good, ordinary people, even though society tries to convince us otherwise. There’s nothing distinguishable about a cannabis user. Most of us, you’d never pick out of a crowd.

Repeatedly portraying the average cannabis user as a bumbling stoner is the same thing as portraying the average wine drinker as a violent alcoholic. It’s an extreme and ridiculous stereotype. Frankly, I’m fed up with it.

Using marijuana is not about getting “baked.”

Most users do not get ridiculously high. We don’t sit around giggling and eating pizza. (Well, most of us don’t.) When used appropriately, cannabis enhances creativity and productivity. Not to say there aren’t occasional bumbling stoners using marijuana, of course there are. Just like some violent alcoholics drink wine.

My fourth grader understands this concept. So, how do we explain it to the rest of the world? Is the ignorance surrounding cannabis really a lack of knowledge or is it just reticence to change?

A few weeks ago, my son came home disappointed. “It’s not fair. Everyone else in the class got to choose the topic they wrote about except for me. The teacher made me change mine.”

The assignment was in celebration of Martin Luther King Day. They had to describe their dream to make the world a better place. My son wanted to write about medical marijuana, but the teacher wasn’t comfortable with the topic.

She’s a compassionate, loving teacher, so maybe it’s my fault? Maybe she worried I’d be offended by my personal health information lining the walls? Perhaps I should email and make my status as an outspoken medical marijuana patient known. She probably has no idea how intensely prohibition and the stigma against marijuana users, affects my family’s daily life.  

Most people don’t realize that marijuana patients are forced to forfeit a list of rights — just to access our medication.

Not only do we waive many rights, but law-abiding, registered MMJ patients are “accidentally” arrested regularly, because of the way the laws are, or are not, communicated. The legal issues are sorted out later in court, but an accidental arrest is traumatic to a patient and their family.

I sat my son down and explained, “If I’m ever arrested, take a deep breath and remember that everything will be ok. I follow the law very carefully. Unfortunately, not every police officer understands the new laws yet. And some people just don’t like cannabis no matter what the law says.”  

Sadly, persistent stigma still drives human interaction. 

 “At least I’m white,” I tried to reassure him, “otherwise the risk of arrest would be much, much greater.” Later, I had to explain that a POC also has a higher chance of being “accidentally” killed during an “accidental” arrest. So, the risks and limitations for many are far greater than mine. Imagine having to risk death to access your medication.

The teacher probably doesn’t realize that every day my son worries his mom could be accidentally arrested. The stigma against cannabis users negatively impacts the lives millions of users around the country.

Research shows cannabis is not fatal; even the DEA acknowledges that.  Is cannabis as safe as water? No, there are real risks and adverse reactions, just like there are with nearly all substances.  However, studies show marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and nicotine. Every day new reports detail a range of diseases and disabilities that cannabis can address, and recreational access has only boosted the economy in legal states. 

Good people smoke marijuana. We need grown-ups in Washington and the rest of the world to stand up and say that marijuana needs to be legalized. It’s time to talk about it. It’s time for the stigma against cannabis users to die with the dinosaurs. 

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