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By Ayad Maher
Given that you have chosen to read this blog, I would assume that your hand shot into the air, causing those around you to wonder if you just mind warped back to your school days and had a question or had to go pee. If you’re reading this blog, and you didn’t consider raising your hand, ask yourself why not? Seems like a simple enough request that should result in a very simple response. However, the number of people willing to raise those hands is completely dependent on who is making the request, where the request is made and who else is present. Make this request at a business meeting with a few corporate executives sitting around the table and there will probably be more blank stares than hands going up. Does that mean that those in that meeting don’t smoke marijuana? Of course not! It simply means that a lot of people feel the need to hide the fact that they enjoy marijuana. My ultimate question is, why are we still hiding and when is the right time to come out of the green closet?
As of the 2016 November elections, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of marijuana use. Seven of those states, along with the District of Columbia, have passed laws for recreational use. This same election year, 2016, marks the year we officially surpassed the 50% legalization mark in the United States. Perception is changing nationwide, and as a result, millions of Americans now have access to what should be deemed a medical marvel. Despite this access and high American approval ratings for legalization, we still hide.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that we are in the middle of a legalization movement. Yet that is precisely what the DEA did in August 2016 when it went against the grain and denied the petition to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I substances; a list shared by the likes of heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and Quaaludes, citing marijuana has no proven medical use. Let’s take a minute and let that set in. Marijuana… the same as LSD, ecstasy, and Quaaludes? In fact, the attorney general recently compared marijuana to heroin and has been quoted as saying “Good people don’t smoke marijuana”. It is precisely these misguided notions that keep people in fear of openly discussing that they support or participate in the use of marijuana. So we hide and we don’t raise our hands.
It’s interesting that in a time where it’s perfectly acceptable to go out with friends and colleagues, guzzling down drink after drink and posting unflattering selfies and slurred rants all over Facebook, we cannabis users and advocates feel like we’re lurking in the shadows, living a double life. Alone because we can’t raise our hands and those around us can’t either. That’s not to say that I’m against drinking and being social with friends/colleagues; it’s the double standard that I’m against. Why is it ok to go out and do those things just because alcohol is involved, but it’s shameful and illegal in most places to sit with some friends smoking a bowl and laughing?
When I had my corporate professional life in Chicago, I put on my suit every day, climbing that corporate ladder, but always felt stuck and out of place in an industry that I have no heart for. The only motivation that kept me going for short periods of time was making money, but I'm not that type of person. I needed a bigger purpose. A passion for what I do every day.
It was a dilemma, coming out of the Green Closet can be a big deal. On one hand, it’s tough to quit a high paying job to start an obscure and risky business. On the other hand, I desperately wanted to follow my "shameful" dream. A lot of questions kept coming to me; what am I gonna tell my family? My boss? My professional and mostly "conservative" business network? How can I talk about such things openly without the fear of losing everything I've worked so hard to build? How can I maintain a job with such strict drug policies while pursuing a career in a field that I don't even know if I'm capable to legally obtain experience in? How can I reach out to marijuana industry professional connections and feel comfortable using the words “marijuana”, “cannabis”, “weed”, “pot”, or God forbid, risking those beautiful green leaves popping up all over my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.
I understand, marijuana is a taboo subject to some people in our society, but silence about our marijuana consumption will only maintain the stigma. Worldwide marijuana awareness initiatives are launching; all they ask for is for us to support them. From the Cannabis Aangenaam n the Netherlands to Coming out Green and We are the Marijhuana Majority in the U.S. Those campaigns and many others will re-shape and develop the industry in the U.S., Uruguay and all those countries pursuing legalization
Sometimes the person you need to be honest with first is yourself. In 2015, I decided to go for it. Screw social stigma, screw whoever will judge. Those who truly love me will never stop, and those who don't, well, at this point, who cares. I got rid of almost everything I had, apartment, furniture even most of my clothes. I bought a van to live in to lower my expenses (#VanLife), moved to a state where marijuana is recreationally legal, and decided to pursue and create my own opportunity; jumping on my dream train.
So finally when someone asks me to raise my hand if I smoke weed, instead of being the one looking back and forth, eyeing up the room, afraid to raise my hand, I decided to be the one who throws his hand up high and says, “I proudly support the movement!”
I gave everything for the cause and wouldn’t change a thing about my decision. However, the movement needs all kinds of support, not just those willing to risk it all. Keep the job that doesn’t allow you to raise your hand, work your hours that support your family, but come out of that Green Closet to somebody, and soon. Raise your hand to them and say, “I also support the movement!”
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!
Leafly had published a fantastic How-to post about coming out of our green closet, here are the steps:
Step 1: Determine the Appropriate Time and Place
Step 2: Be Prepared for Unexpected Reactions
Step 3: Explain the Impact Cannabis Has Had on You Personally
Step 4: Be Educated About Its Health Risks and Benefits
Step 5: Comply with Cannabis Laws and Regulations
Step 6: Be Understanding of Your Family’s Feelings
You can read the whole Leafly post here: How to Come Out of the Cannabis Closet to Your Parents.
Another great article from Rolling Stone; "From talking to your family about medical weed to knowing which products will – and won't – get you high"
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in Jan 2016 and has been revamped and updated as needed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.