Tips on Dealing with the Stigma of Using Cannabis

Tips on Dealing with the Stigma of Using Cannabis

By Ellen Lenox Smith

For so many of us who have experienced success utilizing cannabis for its
medicinal qualities, the fact remains that we still must often be forced to
confront the judgement of friends, family members and the public about our
cannabis use. While we may understand that these negative judgmental
attitudes have been caused by a general public being exposed to decades
of misinformation relative to cannabis, it does little to mitigate the
unintentional emotional pain caused by being judged, especially for those
already suffering from a serious medical condition.

So many of us, who have turned successfully to the use of cannabis, have
also had to learn how to cope with judgement of others. Having found a
natural, benign, gentle medication, often able to relieve an array of
symptoms with no side effects, it becomes frustrating and at times
emotionally draining to repeatedly feel the need to justify its use. The
medical use of cannabis has been legal in my state of Rhode Island, for the
past decade. We need to make sure that legalization of medical cannabis
to happens everywhere in the U.S. We should also support the efforts to
remove cannabis from the Schedule I classification which equates the
impact of cannabis the same as heroin and is holding back the study of
medical cannabis treating a number of medical conditions, including, of
course, chronic pain.

While I have used medical cannabis for a decade. I have often felt the
judgement of others. I decided the best way to address this issue was to
attempt to educate others by sharing the success I was having with
improving the quality of my life. For me, cannabis was the only option due
to my being reactive to all opiates, I either tried this or would have to keep
suffering and lose from opportunities life could provide me, living with two
incurable conditions. People seem to understand that.

Here are some tips that have helped me, that might help you to deal with
the stigma choosing to use this medication:

● Be open and honest and not afraid to share that you are using
● You have found success using this for relief so be proud, instead of
embarrassed, and educate others!
● Share why you turned to it and how it is changing your life. Describe
the changes you are experiencing.
● I love sharing with others that the reaction with a body in pain is not
the same as one using it recreationally. People assume we are just
getting high using it! People in pain get relief.
● Educate others that many of us do not smoke it - we might instead
use it in an oil, tincture, patch, topical, capsule, edible, vaporize -
many just assume we all smoke it and smell of it.
● Educate that if you take too much of this or any medication, there are
side effects, so we always need to stick with the dose that works for
● Educate that no one has ever died from using cannabis - this is a
safe alternative to consider, despite the bad rap society gave it.
● Educate that in our own country cannabis was once utilized and sold
as a legitimate medication so this is not a new thing but something
that is again returning to respect.
● Remind people that this medication comes from a natural grown plant
with no chemicals or anything synthetic in it - unless the grower is not
complying with keeping their grow organic.
● Educate that many of us are not able to metabolize other medications
yet find this to be a safe effective alternative.
● Educate that although the US is behind in researching the benefits of
cannabis, that many countries have been. Have them read all the
positive research from Israel.
● Ask them what would they do if they got inflicted with a painful
condition? Would they avoid this safe medication due to the scare
tactics out there about it?

● Remind them that we don’t get addicted but may be dependent on its
use to live our lives. Never have I ever had a craving to have to have
my next dose of medicine or seen it lead me down the path to
dangerous drugs I could become addicted to.
● Educate that many can cut down and even eliminate other
medications due to the success of using cannabis
● And ask them…….do I act stoned? They look at me and say no, so
what is the problem? I get gentle safe pain relief.
● Consider writing about the positives using cannabis has brought into
your life
● Consider printing out positive articles about the use of cannabis with
your condition. Here is the link to our website as a source:

Some people are just stuck with the old attitude about cannabis, that this is
only about getting high. So let’s pay it forward and educate these people so
all in society can enjoy the medical benefits that this medicine is able to
provide. Each person you educate to understand why this is working and
successful, will help us change the attitude in society over time. If you have
other suggestions on how to help erase the stigma we still face, please do
share them below with your comment!

May Life Be Kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell! I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a
Service Dog!

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Authored by: Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website.

newest oldest
Notify of
Chuck Sanderson

I suffer from arthritis and am not able to take ibuprofren since I am allergic to it. I get cortisone injections 4x per year which helps but for a limited amount of time. Once the cortisone wears off and the pain returns… I take a CBD extract. I found this site to be good for shopping for quality CBD brands But I also recently got in the medical marijuana program in my state. So, I am taking a CBD extract but also at night using medical marijuana. The medical marijuana I use is a strain with a high CBD level and a high CBG level. This stuff is a lifesaver. It unquestionably helps reduce pain. getting into medical marijuana programs is time consuming and difficult in many states. Its’ time to end this ridiculous prohibition.


What about with the medical profession? I have experienced being told by doctors that “patients who have ever been in the medical cannabis program - regardless of duration or how many years ago it was cannot ever be prescribed a controlled medication - even if medically indicated - as by federal law participation in the program is considered documented proof of substance abuse”. I have also had my Ambian taken away because “we don’t know if the concurrent use of medical cannabis and Ambian has a risks or not” (though they are fine with prescribing other medications - such as anti-depressants - for sleep though though they don’t know if there are any risks with that either). Where can we find credible (to them) information and statistics to educate our doctors?

Louis Ogden

I know how you feel, Alabama! The State of Virginia will not allow me to fill my opioid scrips after having a flag pop up showing me to be a high-dose, chronic pain patient. I wish the religion would stay out of these posts, too but I guess it gives some strength. No supreme guy in the sky has helped me either.

I don't care about stigma, laws, etc!

The State of Alabama can kiss my as*!!!! Yeah it’s illegal but you can marry your cousin here in Alabama? Wow! I’ve got cancer, damn the police! They took my pain medication left me to suffer - I had someone snitch, police come to my house, they got educated too!! When the pain leaves you in dying pain literally from cancer, you really could give a … less about a state, laws, DEA, gov’t, stigma, police, pain clinics that don’t help you worth nothing, God you feel has abandoned you, the Christians that judge you, any stigma especially when most the people judging either will do one of the two: alcohol or cigarettes! No-one is better than no-one! The woman simply is educating about marijuana, how it helped because she can’t take opiates not that she is against them. The truth, some people are being defensive only due to opiates and that is wrong as ones like me have no choice - mine were taken! I had enough of two years of cancer pain and it had gone stage 4 to suffer hearing about the freaking DEA/CDC guidelines pulled COLD-TURKEY! I’m upset because the article is on dealing with the stigma of marijuana for pain very well written and is not any attacking other pain patients YET what comments are left but STIGMA!!! to the point of religion being brought up!


Hello , I commented on the last article you printed from the CBD OIL vendor. My comment remains much the same. Cannabis oil although low in percentage of
Psychoactive THC and produce’s no ” High” it will produce a positive (+) on a urine drug screen. Know your State Laws before participating! You must have a STATE document stating you are in a legal study group through your Pain Management Specialist ( Anesthsia) in any State where pot, cannabis, Marijuana is illegal. Even for the CBD oil products which are legal to ship interstate in USA.
The companies that are shipping do not pay attention to what state they are shipping to………..
The CBD OIL sellers do not notify you of your State’s Law’s!
Get stopped by Police and God forbid you are placed in a situation requiring body fluid testing……..!
Don’t misunderstand I’m happy product exists just function within your State’s Law’s.

Deb D

Well, good article and a good list of tips. Unfortunately, be aware that no matter how well you communicate it is sometimes not enough. Hubs is post 5 back surgeries, MRSA, every therapy tried (including implanted nerve stimulator). Long time responsible user of opiates. Some years ago we saw what was coming with opiates and transitioned him to cannabis. All in accordance with state law, proper documentation and permit every year. But youngest son (age 40 plus) and daughter in law do not “approve” of this, and have basically shunned us and keep us from seeing our grandchildren. We have gone to counseling, even a couple of sessions with them, but they still feel we are a danger to their children because of cannabis use. And this son has a college degree and we have sent numerous articles etc. trying to educate him. All of our docs are aware of and approve of this cannabis use. So just be aware that sometimes you will have to make a decision. Is a functional life worth losing family over? For us, the answer is yes. At some point the grandkids may be able to ask directly about all this, but it is a shame that such stigma still exists. Good luck to all of us who are using and benefit from it.

Louis Ogden

Autumn, I agree with you in principal, but not being a religious person, I prefer to think that humans and MJ evolved together. I feel the same about humans and the opium poppy. There are a number of opioids that are pure - no added tylenol, etc. like oxycodone IR and others. You are correct concerning percocet, vicodin, etc and others that contain stomach eating NSAIDS!

Brenda Bennett

Will y’all plz tell me if us medicare & medicaid ppl are going to be outlawed from these insurances paying our doctors & prescriptions? Thank u, brenda bennett

Autumn Gabriel

God put endo~cannabinoid receptors in our brains for a reason. God is NEVER wrong! It is so much safer to use a plant, made by God, in its natural state; rather than to trust our government (FDA), who would put in chemicals we don’t need & don’t even know what they are! There are WAY too many side effects in all our medications as it is. Every commercial for a legal drug, approved by FDA, has a long list of terrible things to watch for while taking their drugs. And there are ads for attorneys who are suing drug companies for the most horrible circumstances, including deaths, that may be occurring when taking drugs, which have been authorized by our FDA! So using medicinal cannabis, a plant that has NEVER in all of history caused a single death, is a safe, viable, & natural alternative sanctioned by God! God Bless all of us suffering chronic pain & merely trying to find a way to function & get a decent quality of life! 😉

[…] Read the full article from National Pain Report → […]

E. Susanne Wilson

The State of Alabama just came out with the edict that CBD Oil, in ANY form, is STIILL ILLEGAL. Around November 15-23. Thought you ought to know!
Suzanne Wilsonrr

Sharon C.

Hmmm, tell me again why I care what others think of me using medical Cannabis, if I ever get lucky enough to try it? I’d rather educate others about my
incurable pain condition, CRPS. No one reads about it; it’s never in newspapers or online, outside the chronic pain community. No one hears about it; it’s never
the focus on television. Sadly, it’s not well known in the medical community. In my opinion, if one well known celebrity spoke about CRPS, there would be a good chance the public might listen and learn about this horrible condition. At that point, the public might take up the fight to make opioids and Cannabis available to those who suffer from CRPS.

Does anyone remember when celebrity super star Elizabeth Taylor began to
speak about her friend Rock Hudson’s struggle with AIDS? We need an Elizabeth
Taylor in our corner.

Louis Ogden

I am not as concerned about the “stigma” of weed as I am the stigma surrounding opioids. Pot is not a panacea and would never take the place of opioids but, as an adjunct, it helps to release pressure from the staggering headaches I get, it acts as an appetite stimulant, and it helps with pain.


I just started using medical marijuana so I do relate the need to justify my using it to control pain. Great article! Thank you for sharing!

Michael Kastner

It’s hard to believe that our so called civilized Nation (FDA) classifies Marijuana as a Class I drug, same as Heroin. A plant based medication that has proven to be useful in so many medical issues.
CBD, an integral part of the medicinal part of the plant helps epilepsy, pain, insomnia, depression to mention just a few of the benefits. And “other’s” uneducated responses are just that. Uneducated opinionated BS
Those of us who are blessed enough to have CBD/ Pot in our lives for medicinal purposes are blessed.