Blog Share: The Stigma of Weed & I

I smoke marijuana publicly, and I get a lot of shit for it. That shit comes in the form of friends hinting that I constantly smell dank, or dirty looks from strangers while I'm smoking, or my inner worries buzzing in my ear like a damn bee - "Psh, you could fail a drug test. Pssh, there is a crowd, you should not smoke here. Psssssh, does my boss know I am really high right now”.

My friends tell me I am a reckless smoker. At one point, on a cold night, my friends and I hopped into the car of a stranger who saw us lighting it up outside and offered to let us hotbox his car. Getting into a stranger's car who tells you verbatim that he does not smoke himself is a really bad idea. Apparently, he was a police inspector. I fucked up bad. He let us go so we got lucky, but I constantly think about the consequences I could have suffered if he had not.

I do refrain from smoking at home because I live with my mother. Yet, that does not even work in my favor. My mother is traditional. She is a Haitian immigrant who worked her way out of poverty to later establish a life here in America. She found a lighter around the house, and later my sash in a drawer, and she has deduced that I am a bonified druggie. Every day now, she asks me find a doctor. She thinks I need help, someone to “fix” me. When my mother and I interact, we reenact recurring bad episodes of “Intervention”. I am always the lost case. Our relationship right now is tense.

To be fair, my mother is just stuck in the past. Over time, marijuana use has become more acceptable. Marijuana paraphernalia is legally sold in bodegas across all boroughs. In Brooklyn, I openly smoke outside without much hassle. Everyone talks about weed. A huge majority of people smoke weed (I personally think the Obamas toke it up together during family night). Yet, marijuana use is not legal. Even when I try to forget that, someone - a friend, my mother, a police inspector, or my inner worrywart - reminds me to remain cautious and stay on guard.

I only started smoking habitually about a year ago after visiting Denver during 04/20 weekend. Denver was the first state to legalize marijuana use. Before visiting, I binge watched “Weediquette” to delve into the world of cannabis. A wide spectrum of people have turned to cannabis to solve medical problems, like cancer, mental illness, PTSD, etc., that modern medicine is not fixing, and it is working. Once I smoked in Denver, I felt empowered. The experience was hassle-free, and more importantly, eye-opening. Shopping at dispensaries (versus the neighborhood budman), I began to understand the complexity of cannabis and how that translates to a range of strains that affect your personality differently. For the first time, I could control my marijuana experience by choosing the best strain for me. I became a covert, and eventually a pothead.

When my mom thinks pothead, she envisions some version of me jobless, in an abandoned trap house, counting dollar bills for the neighborhood drug dealer. It is a misconception that marijuana use stifles motivation and productivity. I do have an actual day job. I work in the technology space, analyzing consumer-streaming behavior. Some days, when I feel utterly consumed by a seemingly insurmountable amount of work, my brain shuts down. I take smoke breaks to clear my head, feel less overwhelmed, and think logically. At my previous job, upper management was demotivated, but demanding, of course. I had to be courteous to people who I felt were inherently taking advantage of me. I spent my days fake smiling at co-workers I despised for the sake of being professional - my social anxiety at work was at an all-time high. Smoking made it all bearable.

When you follow the money, you realize that the only true force against the legalization of marijuana are businesses. They are only concerned with establishing a system that ensures they make a profit, and that takes time. The stigma of weed is unnecessary and dated. Last month, I learned a fun fact. Humans have an endocannabinoid system that largely affects our physical and mental health, specifically physiological systems that contribute to stress responses, mood, memory, motivation, etc.  It is key that we feed our body cannabinoids to keep this system balanced. What contains cannabinoids? Kush, of course. So, the next time someone glares at you for smoking, shout ‘I’m giving my body the CBD it needs, are you?’.