The drawbacks of growing up unexposed to the benefits of cannabis

Published Jul 7, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / jacoblund

It’s now 2020 and much of the world is taking a more relaxed approach to cannabis. This is a trend that is spreading like wildfire and it’s being celebrated by consumers and industry professionals alike, as the long hard fight finally seems like it’s starting to pay off, but soaring into a whole new world of advanced regulations and supposed acceptance is a difficult thing to swallow for those who grew up unexposed to the idea that cannabis could be anything other than a highly illegal and dangerous drug.

How it all began

We are now in the second year of legalization in Canada, which means that nearly every single consumer that currently exists went through some form of intense propaganda exposure throughout the schools. Whether it was a big talk with the local police about the harms and punishments for crimes like getting caught with cannabis, or it was the Reefer Madness craze that ultimately went on for nearly a decade, we were all told time and time again that cannabis was a bad drug, and that no one should ever use it.

Our parents all told us it was bad, with many lying to us in hopes of hiding their taboo habit. All of the medical professionals told us it was terrible, and no matter where we looked, there was always some sort of negative reference to its use. It was impossible to avoid, even if you were one of the few with parents or family members who used it. Nearly every trusted adult in our lives repeated this narrative, and for some of us, it became a commonsense motto that we stuck to, that is, until we figured things out for ourselves.

The struggle through prohibition

Becoming a teenager during prohibition was a difficult thing, especially at a time where the world was evolving so quickly, and the rules were no longer keeping up to match the times. By this point, most kids will have had some kind of exposure to cannabis, just not in a positive light. Maybe it was the bad boy in school who wanted to look cool or the girl who would try just about anything she could get her hands-on, but regardless of the taboo associated, it didn’t take long for many to see, that prohibition seemed at least a little bit silly.

Still, many of us stayed silent, avoided cannabis use completely, or simply kept it to ourselves for fear of judgment. After all, not everyone who saw the reality of the situation could believe it. Not after years of indoctrination, misbelief, dedication, and criticism, because doing so would mean that everything we once believed was true could no longer be.

Some of us grew up and never once tried cannabis, and many had a time or two to experiment with it before moving on to bigger and better things, but a lot of consumers use it therapeutically, and for them, it became a way of life that simply could not be spoken about. At least, not freely or openly like most would have liked. This inspired a whole new confusing level of shame, as adulthood was all too quickly on the horizon, and we had to think about the future.

The future at that point was little more than a distant dream that we had to prepare for by being as perfect as possible. That means not breaking the law, not drawing negative attention to yourself that could get in the way of precious opportunities, and for the most part, hiding anything that might go against the grain. With cannabis illegal, many chose to quit as they took on larger than life responsibilities, thinking that it was the only way to avoid the risk of losing it all.

You wouldn’t see tokers enjoying each other's company in open parking lots or parks unless there was a protest, and for those who chose to partake simply buying a small bag of cannabis had to be done with the utmost discretion. Even though cannabis consumers have remained in large numbers for many years, all those who chose it over more harmful or manmade alternatives were viewed as taboo, and often irresponsible.

Where we are today

Most of the people who are alive in legal regions today have at one time or another believed that cannabis was a terrible recreational drug that should be avoided at all costs, and who could really blame them. They’ve seen parents ripped from their children for enjoying the occasional puff on the weekends and witnessed a friend or family members imprisonment over their choice to be involved in the underground industry.

These kinds of morally conflicting situations forced tensions to run high, and those uncomfortable feelings for many still haven't gone away completely. Not even today in those regions that allowed its use, and this is a direct impact that comes from years of lies and abuse of the criminal justice system to enforce archaic laws that haven't had any place in society for a very long time.

For a lot of cannabis users, it’s still a struggle internally to be entirely comfortable with public consumption, and it doesn’t matter that it’s legal now, because the damage to these generations is complete. There is just no coming back from years of engrained hate and mistrust, but the changing of the laws will eventually reverse this damage.

Our future generations, the ones who have seen cannabis praised as an incredible and safe medicine, and the ones who will be properly educated on it’s safe and effective uses won’t have to struggle through the same unsavory feelings of doing something wrong if they want to kick back and enjoy a joint on the weekend. They are the ones who will benefit most from these changes, and that is a massive victory for everyone who believes in the cannabis plant’s incredible abilities, but it isn’t quite justice.

There are still millions of people who struggle with the moral dilemma of whether or not they should try cannabis, be it for a safer alternative to alcohol, or as a safe and effective medicine that won’t further degrade their health, and that needs to be recognized more going forward, as they continue to face residual discrimination today for something that never should have been illegal in the first place.

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