Many of us have been there. Your mom comes over to visit and finds a bong stashed under a pile of soiled laundry, and suddenly you find yourself playing a game of 20 questions.
“How could you do this to me?”
“Are you high right now?”
“Weed is a gateway drug. What’s next? Heroin?”
Without the necessary preparation, you might find yourself scrambling for excuses — or pinning blame for your perfectly natural habit on external forces. You were “holding onto it for a friend,” right? You’ve “never actually smoked weed.” You were just curious. Or, the classic rebuttal: You put the joint in your mouth, but never actually inhaled.
The fact of the matter is, you do consume cannabis. And in a state where recreational marijuana is legal for adults, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But how do you explain your marijuana use to a parent who was indoctrinated by Reefer Madness-era propaganda? By bringing hard facts to the dinner table.
Nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose.
If you’ve got a loving parent who cares about your well-being, don’t fault them for falling victim to the prohibitionist propaganda that’s dominated TV and online advertising over the past 50+ years. In subtle (and less subtle) ways, anti-weed campaigns have vastly exaggerated the dangers of cannabis, making it seem that even a few puffs can lead you down a dark, dangerous path.
But decades of research, including a 2017 report published by the Drug Enforcement Administration, has made one fact clear: Nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose.
Marijuana is not a gateway drug
Raise your hand if you’ve heard the term “gateway drug” applied to marijuana before. It refers to a phenomenon that goes something like this: You consume a substance, and — benign as it may be — you’ll inevitably crave more potent (and potentially more dangerous) alternatives. But here’s the thing: When it comes to cannabis, the “gateway drug” theory has been thoroughly debunked. Not only is there a lack of evidence that marijuana use correlates with the subsequent use of “hard” drugs, there’s a growing body of research indicating the very opposite.
Study after study has revealed that individuals in states like Oregon where marijuana laws are less restrictive are less likely to die from, or misuse, opioids, for example. And many patients are also more likely to use cannabis as a substitute for countless pharmaceuticals, which frequently carry far more serious side effects — in addition to the risk of overdose.
Marijuana isn’t just THC
Yes, today’s cannabis is, generally, more potent than the weed your parents or grandparents smoked. The average concentration of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is approximately three times higher these days than it was as recently as 1995, according to one study. But as patients and caregivers around the country will tell you, weed isn’t just THC.
There are literally hundreds of ingredients in cannabis, including the nonpsychoactive compound CBD, which is known to treat conditions such as inflammation, pain and anxiety. You don’t have to smoke a massive, high-THC joint to derive health benefits from cannabis. If your mission is sincere: To improve your health, pharmaceutical-free, then read up on lesser known ingredients in cannabis such as CBD in order to inform your parents about the other ways this plant can help. There are plenty of high-CBD, low-THC strains and products to choose from.
Weed is safer than booze
This is probably the easiest fact card to pull, but if you’ve got a parent who detests marijuana — but finds a glass of wine at dinner comforting and socially acceptable — it might be worth challenging some societal norms here. Marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol, according to a 2015 study. And even that statistic is a bit misleading because marijuana is not physically addictive in the way that other drugs are, and there’s no known amount of cannabis that can cause a fatal overdose among humans.
Now compare that to alcohol. How many Americans die from alcohol-related deaths per year? About 88,000. What about marijuana? Zero. I’m not trying to say that nobody should drink a glass of wine over dinner. But what might be useful, in a constructive conversation with your parents, may be to point out that one perfectly legal (and arguably dangerous) substance is available nationwide for those 21 or older. Yet mere possession of the other substance — marijuana — can still land you in jail in a substantial (though shrinking) number of states around the country. Does that really make sense?
Let’s talk about the medical benefits of cannabis
Yes, at the federal level, marijuana remains Schedule 1 — the most strict category under Drug Enforcement Administration guidelines. Still, that hasn’t prevented private institutions, or researchers in other countries, from investigating the plethora of health benefits that compounds in cannabis may provide for patients.
Let’s quickly review a few conditions cannabis is known to treat, which have been firmly established through peer-reviewed research: pain (both physical and neuropathic), inflammation, muscle spasms, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, and side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea.
All of this is to say that consuming cannabis isn’t singularly about getting high. Strains, dosing and forms of consumption matter. There shouldn’t be any shame in getting high for the sake of getting high, but if you’re trying to convince your folks that your weed habit is normal, offering a brief overview of its proven medical benefits could be useful.
This isn’t about politics anymore
Stigmas around marijuana use haven’t disappeared just because more states have legalized the plant. Many of those stigmas have roots in antiquated political ideologies. If you’ve got parents who lean right (or left) and oppose weed, it might come as a surprise to them there’s growing bipartisan support for cannabis reform. Many Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike have evolved on their position when it comes to cannabis policy.
A 2017 Gallup poll found, for the first time, that a slim majority of conservatives support federal marijuana legalization. And if you take a broader look at public opinion polling, 64% of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized, according to that same survey. Maybe citing polls isn’t the most effective tool in your arsenal of facts to bring to the table, but it could give helpful pause for thought.
You don’t have to smoke marijuana to derive the plant’s benefits
Listen, putting smoke in your lungs isn’t the healthiest form of cannabis consumption. When you talk to marijuana opponents, it might be useful to inform them that bongs, blunts and joints aren’t the only ways you can administer cannabis these days. There are so many other options. Topical creams, gel capsules, sublingual sprays, tinctures — these are just a few examples that demonstrate the versatility of cannabis consumption in the 21st century.
For someone who isn’t particularly familiar with the modern cannabis market, this could be an easy way to pave a middle ground.
The legal case for cannabis
One major priority for parents is to keep their kids out of trouble. And so one of the most essential facts you need to keep in your pocket is the legal status of cannabis. In Oregon, it is legal if you follow the rules. Yes, marijuana is banned at the federal level. If that’s a deal-breaker for your parents, then consider going back through this list and then make a reasoned case for why that shouldn’t be the case in the first place.
This won’t always be the easiest conversation
Years ago, my mom found my bong, stowed away in my closet, and confronted me about it — tears already rolling. This was well before I started reporting on the health benefits of cannabis, learning more and more as I went. So I can appreciate that this conversation can be awkward and difficult. But even with the limited facts I knew at the time, the tone of the conversation took a 180-degree turn. It became a productive and open discussion about what is a nontoxic, nonaddictive plant. I can’t promise that you’ll have the same experience, but one thing I wish I had at the time was a one-sheet of facts I could share with her — in a polite and constructive manner — to make a better case and enlighten her about how the prohibitionist propaganda she grew up accepting was dead wrong. Facts are facts — and the facts are on our side here.
Compiled by The Fresh Toast and distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.