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!