How And Why You Should Talk To Strangers About Marijuana

Originally published by Ladybud Magazine

Sometimes I get really sick of talking about pot, but then I remember why I need to.

I have been immersed in the marijuana world for awhile now and it is easy for me to feel like all the things I know about marijuana are common knowledge; it wasn’t illegal until 1937, it cannot kill you, it is more effective in treating many illnesses than pharmaceutical drugs, it is only illegal because some people make a lot of money by keeping it that way. I am sick of talking about it.

But I was born, raised and live on the coast of California. I am surrounded by people who use it, grow it, sell it and people who fight for the right to do all of the above. The facts about marijuana have been normalized for me and many others like me.

Change is definitely happening in California, New York, Washington and Colorado– but we have to make more of an effort to reach out more. Real change happens in conservative states, low-population states, states with harsh drug laws, states where the prohibitionist propaganda is ingrained deepest.

For instance, did you know it would only take $50,000 to add Idaho to the list of medical marijuana states? I recently visited Idaho activist Lindsey Rinehart and learned not only does this Republican state of only 1.5 million people have an 84% favorable view of medical marijuana, it only would take 50,000 signatures to make it to a ballot where it would likely pass. $1 a signature, $50,000 total. Yet, the money isn’t there because activists in big liberal states still don’t believe it could happen, despite the facts.

Why does it matter if states like Idaho pass medical marijuana? Because it’s a state you think never will, a true bellwether of changing federal policy.

The first time I visited Columbia, Missouri, I was terrified. I drove around in a constant state of paranoia thinking because of my associations and reasons for being there I would be pulled over and a cop would drop a sack of drugs in my lap. To my surprise and despite my ignorance, nothing like that came close to happening. In fact, I even had a nice chat with the Chief of Police,Ken Burton, about drug legalization.

On another Midwest visit, a longtime friend took me to dinner at her father’s house. He’s a soybean farmer in Southern Illinois. We decided before we went inside that we would not make any mention of what I do for work for fear of creating uncomfortable dinner conversation.

I really tried to stay quiet but he had already heard about what I had done from his other daughter– and he was dying to talk about hemp. He had been purchasing expensive soil conditioners to treat the fields in between seasons and heard hemp could be a valuable crop that when rotated could condition the soil for the beans. He also, apparently, had fond memories of getting high back in high school. The conversation took a sharp and positive turn to marijuana legalization.

Just this last week I boarded a plane in Salt Lake City, where I ended up sitting next to a Mormon mother of eight and grandmother who had a daughter in Oklahoma pregnant and suffering from a recent diagnosis with Crohn’s Disease, which I also have. I decided to talk to her about pot.

Mostly, she had a lot of questions. Was it addictive? No. Could it hurt a fetus? Most likely not, but it is a touchy topic for a doctor to study or a woman to speak publicly about, but most studies have shown it is not only safe but possibly beneficial. How do you take it? I put it in teas by using medicated honey from dispensaries, or tinctures made by a friend. Sometimes I smoke or eat it. Where could her daughter get it in Oklahoma? Unfortunately I don’t have a positive answer for that one, it is still very dangerous to possess, grow or sell marijuana in that state. By the time we parted she said I had opened her mind to marijuana and overall drug policies (because I also mentioned I believe all drugs should be legal).

Maybe she just never had someone like me to talk to about it.

This is why, even though I am so sick and tired of talking about pot I think we must do it all the time, with strangers, with conservative strangers. Here are a few tips how to do it:

Be Polite. I cannot stress this point enough. As with any political conversation with people who think differently than you, aggression can quickly change a conversation into an argument. Listen to what other people have to say, don’t ram your views down their throat. Accept that you may not be able to change their mind but know by being a polite and positive person you are representing your side of the debate in a mature way. Sometimes it’s not just the message, it’s the delivery.

Don’t Make Things Up. If you don’t have a good answer to a question, please for the good of the movement do not make something up. It is ok to say “I don’t know” and I find in many situations throughout life people appreciate it a lot more when you just tell them you don’t know something rather than make it up. If you give a stranger incorrect information and they prove you wrong, you may have just lost any chance at bringing them around to your point of view.

Know The Facts. To that note, learn more. Read books. Follow the news. Make sure you are ready to answer tough questions. (And reading Ladybud pretty regularly is also a great source of verifiable information!)

Keep An Even Tone. The fight for marijuana legalization has really become a fight for public opinion. Slow down, speak articulately, do not get angry if someone says something you don’t agree with. A person looks far crazier when the person they are yelling at is cool, calm and collected– but not cocky.

Be Open To Other Viewpoints. You may be able to debunk politically and scientifically any and all incorrect notions other people have about marijuana, but just because you know you’re right doesn’t mean they don’t also think they are right. Some people may be opposed to marijuana for religious or personal reasons, although you know the facts you aren’t going to get anywhere by opposing other people’s beliefs.

We must talk about it. Talk about it wherever you get an in. I know it gets tiring, and boring, and there are so many other things to talk about (by all means, talk about those too!) but by being a responsible ambassador from the marijuana legalization movement, you will make a much bigger wave of change. This is the only way we will win the war.

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