For decades now we have been told that cannabis is evil, that it has no redeeming medicinal qualities and that our government considers it to be as addictive and dangerous as illicit substances such as heroin.
Potheads are depicted in mainstream media as dazed and confused stoners with no drive and no useful contributions to society.
Bizarrely all the canna kings and queens that I know and have had the pleasure to work with do not fit into this stereotype. They are often very creative, very driven with clear ideas and goals. Most likely you have a personal or professional hero who did or still does consume.
So how do we, as upstanding members of society dismantle the negative stigma associated with tokers? I think we get loud. We need to continually remind people about our accomplishments.
Accomplishments made by people in the cannabis world or who regularly partake are easy to disregard, especially for those without any skin in the game - the folks who don't consume, who aren't familiar with the benefits and who have bought all that propaganda about cannabis melting your brain. We need to help them understand.
Recently I was in a meeting with a Health Care Provider who had indicated an interest in helping steer patients towards cannabis as a treatment. He wanted his patients to have access to educational material but at the same time he was very worried that offering guidance would attract "the wrong people" to his office. People looking to score. He went on and on about ensuring that there was no smell of cannabis in the air - because that would be awful for his other patients. It would also be illegal, I reminded him. Licensed Producers are the only legal sources of medical cannabis in Canada currently so there would be no reason for him to worry about odour control. Education is not the same as trafficking and by having educational material in his office he would not be attracting a criminal element, nor would he suddenly be expected to have cannabis onsite - after all, he didn't carry a supply of oxycontin in his office either. Right?
I left the meeting feeling conflicted. I was happy that this MD was willing to try to help his patients understand what cannabis could do for them but I was also disappointed in the flippant way he referred to "pot heads" and "stoners". Thats all a part of the stigma that we need to continue to try to overcome, and if I'm really being honest with myself, I will admit that my distaste for his attitude stems from my own bias against those who would pass judgement so quickly. It's a vicious circle.
At the end of the day I think that the only way to squash negative perceptions is to disprove them. Again and again with patience and love.