Throughout the long, sad, era of marihuana prohibition, there was no such thing as “responsible” cannabis use. All use was deemed irresponsible, illegal, and immoral.
As we move into the post-prohibition era, it’s time to figure out what responsible cannabis use looks like. As a society, we need to have conversations we’ve been unable to have during the past 80+ years of reefer madness.
For decades we’ve heard that marihuana is dangerous and has no acceptable use. That marihuana leads to all sorts of immoral behavior, schizophrenia, and mindless violence. Given the propaganda, it’s no wonder that right-thinking people consider marihuana to be public enemy number one.
The federal law is clear; marihuana is a schedule 1 drug. That’s the classification used for the most dangerous and addictive drugs. According to the federal statute, marihuana is as dangerous as heroin. What’s more, the schedule 1 classification means marihuana has no medical use.
But, here’s the weird thing about the Devil’s Weed. In the United States, we have over two decades of experience with legal cannabis. During that period, the fabric of society has not come unraveled. As a result of this experience, we’re starting to discover cannabis is not as dangerous as we’ve always heard it is.
On the contrary, teen use, opioid-related deaths, and alcohol sales are declining in legal cannabis states. Meanwhile, new jobs, tax revenue, and the property values of homes near dispensaries are on the rise.
During the march towards legalization, the availability of cannabis products has exploded. There’s now more cannabis available, more ways to consume it, and more people have access than ever before.
We’ve moved from zero tolerance to a veritable cannabis bazaar. During prohibition, we had the humble hand-rolled joint and homemade brownies. Now we have gourmet edibles, vape products, tinctures, topicals, and even transdermal patches. This rapid evolution has bypassed our antiquated understanding of the plant and how it’s consumed. We haven’t had time to reflect on how to integrate this new substance into our lives in a responsible manner.
Now is the time to have adult discussions about responsible cannabis use.
By contrast, we have a pretty good idea what responsible alcohol use looks like. If not, at least we know irresponsible alcohol use when we see it. And, as a society, we try to discourage irresponsible use. It’s time to develop and apply similar standards to cannabis.
In the beginning, much of this discussion will be educational. New consumers have no idea what to expect, what products to select, or how to correctly dose cannabis. Returning consumers are in for a surprise. The cannabis they remember from college has morphed into a million different things.
Our societal understanding of responsible alcohol use didn’t come about overnight. It evolved over decades following the repeal of alcohol prohibition. And it continues to develop based on public norms.
Meanwhile, we’re battling decades-old stereotypes that portray cannabis consumers as unmotivated losers. And cannabis consumption as a binary state. In a world of non-psychoactive CBD products, low dose THC mints, and the increasingly popular practice of microdosing, the truth is something else altogether.
Part of this process requires us to de-stigmatize cannabis use. It’s time to move past the “cannabis is as bad as heroin” mentality. That’s easier said than done for those of us who lived through the Reagan era. We must be more open and honest about why, when, and how much cannabis gets used. Once we do, you’ll likely be surprised by how many cannabis consumers you already know.
As we work to define responsible use, some standards will be obvious:
- Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence.
- Keep cannabis out of reach of children and young adults.
- Keep edibles away from kids, pets, and unsuspecting adults.
Beyond that, there’s a lot to work out.
As with alcohol, I don’t think we’ll see a consensus emerge overnight. It will take time and many long discussions. And, unfortunately, many years for the old stereotypes to fade away.
In my next post, I’ll take a deeper look at the attributes of responsible cannabis use.