How we educate people about cannabis could make or break the industry

Published Mar 18, 2021 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / HighGradeRoots

Most of us grew up during a time when using cannabis was a criminal offense. We were exposed to ‘don’t do drugs’ campaigns which tied the plant in with harsh, dangerous street drugs, and no matter where we looked, it was echoed, “Just don’t do drugs, kids!” The anti-pot propaganda was so intense and effective that some of us were convinced that we’d melt into a puddle of useless goo if we so much as looked at the stuff the wrong way, and that is very much a sentiment that lingers today.

Sure, we know better now, and science has helped tremendously by backing us up. It’s absolutely clear that cannabis has wrongly been stigmatized as we realize new and exciting benefits all the time. Still, many refuses to adjust their perspective to fit this new reality, holding onto long-held myths, rumors, and stereotypes as if they provide some sort of security, a layer of ignorance that justifies the continued judgment of anyone who uses it.

It’s been a long road to get this far, where legal cannabis has a rightful place in several countries, but we’re not anywhere near the end of this journey. There are far too many minds, laws, and processes to change. Most believe the level of action required to see a change that can be fast-tracked with the assistance of a proper cannabis education, which is what brings us to our topic of the day, how we can all work together to best facilitate that.

Discussion of adverse effects essential

Cannabis consumers and educators don’t like to dwell on the possible adverse effects, and for a good reason. We’re already battling the stigmatized nature of the plant, so it makes sense to shift the focus, but educating people about these things can help them in a couple of different ways. It can help them to prepare both mentally and physically for the worst-case scenario, and it reduces their likelihood of ever experiencing such an unfortunate situation.

Another important thing that many of us forget is that much of the world still looks at cannabis like it does harsh and toxic street drugs, and a thorough explanation of the true adverse effects can help to clear up some of the confusion surrounding what is and isn’t possible. It’s not uncommon for people to be uncomfortable with what they don’t understand, which is why we need to calm their fears by helping them to reassess real dangers; We can only do that by making the risks clear and understandable.

Why we can’t let that be our focus

There is a lot of focus on the bad things that can happen when cannabis is introduced to any equation, so much, that it’s become somewhat of an obsession for those who are against it. Those of us who are brave enough to talk about the adverse effects are often greeted with “I told you so” type statements, as words like addiction, reliance, and withdrawal are tossed about as if they are generically relevant no matter what drug is being discussed.

Factual cannabis education is key

It is important for people to learn about the potential risks that can go along with cannabis consumption, but it is just as essential for us to clarify what they really mean for those who choose to use it while also being transparent about its benefits. A true cannabis education in order to be effective must be absolute without bias. Of course, as a lover of the green, it’s impossible not to come to the table with a clear alignment with pro-cannabis initiatives, but the information can’t be stretched to meet an agenda.

The problem with cannabis learning resources now

Since legal cannabis is still quite new, most of the learning resources out there for the average person are heavily flawed. We see that our children are still being taught simply to avoid cannabis, often with it being grouped with dangerous substances that have no place standing beside a safe and natural plant, and it’s even worse out there for the adults who want or need clarification.

Most of them are learning from people who either for or against pot, and any lessons offered, be it through text, blogs, or classes, are twisted to suit that narrative. It’s really hard to tell who you can trust or where to turn, and most official avenues of information through public health or other federally or provincially sponsored programs focus only on the most disturbing facts with a clear intent to convince the masses that there is a fictional amount of danger lurking behind every leaf.

The goal should always be to destigmatize cannabis and encourage safe use

Effective cannabis education should prepare people for the possibilities that are out there, including both the good and the bad, but most related learning resources have seriously lacked transparency. We need to destigmatize the plant and its consumption if we want to see the industry evolve and succeed, and to do that, we need to reach people of all ages with nothing but a good shot of the whole truth while making available all of the information they could require to consume both safely and responsibly.

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