Preaching to the Converted

Updated January 6, 2018. 

I recall an episode from about 10 years ago, when I was in Toronto covering a legalization rally at the beginning of the cannabis-themed freelance segment of my writing career (I now focus on the development of compliance documentation for businesses getting into the cannabis industry).

Gooey Rabinski in Los Angeles, California.

Canada had, only a few years prior (in 2001), implemented a federal-level medical cannabis program designed to help its sick citizens gain safe access to marijuana medicine.

It was an interesting event. Total strangers shared their cannabis, often samples that fans of the culture had grown themselves. I recall young, smart gardeners from throughout Ontario approaching me with beautiful cannabis flowers that they had grown from top-shelf strains like White Widow and Northern Lights #5, seeking my opinion after they learned that I was a writer for magazines like Cannabis Health Journal and High Times.

Among this excitement and energy, with the euphoria of the moment permeating the consciousness of all participants and the sweet smell of high-grade cannabis filling the air, a moment of sober reality hit. I was speaking with Alan Young, a prominent law professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School who was somewhat of an elder statesman within the Canadian cannabis movement.

Marijuana reo3 05/23 /02 Law professor Alan Young shown addressing a press conference on the medical use of Marijuana. (Photo by Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Osgoode Hall Law School professor Alan Young.

I had always liked and respected the charismatic, hyper-intelligent, and always insightful Young. I was happy for the opportunity to spend some time speaking with him about the Canadian cannabis movement. Being from the States, the Canadians typically enjoyed getting my spin on things. They were very proud that they had, in some respects, eclipsed the United States in beginning to destigmatize cannabis and making it legally available to their sick citizens.

I commented on what a great rally it was. Buoyed by showcase cannabis and the company of thousands of likeminded cannabis gardeners, consumers, and patients, there was a certain level of elation that permeated the crowd.

Then Young dropped the bomb. He responded that the rally was great, but there was one major problem: Everyone was preaching to the converted.

Shit. He was right.

I looked around the crowd. My professorial conversation partner was dead on. I couldn’t identify anyone at the event who wasn’t a part of the culture or who might have been “undecided” prior to attending this rally. These folks were serious participants in the trampled, traditionally underground culture of cannabis.

Preaching to the converted is a problem for all social movements, including LGBTQ+ rights, atheists, alternative energy advocates, and the cannabis crowd.

Preaching to the converted is a problem for all social movements, including LGBTQ+ activists, atheists, alternative energy advocates, and the cannabis crowd. The challenge, obviously, becomes one of convincing those middle class, middle-of-the-road citizens that they should vote yes on a cannabis-related ballot issue or support a friend or relative in their quest to medicate with cannabis.

cannabis rally in canada

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re in the cannabis industry, are a medical patient, or are simply a fan of the culture and occasional consumer. Regardless of our role, we all must ask ourselves: How effectively are we educating and influencing those around us who don’t embrace the the mindset that pesticide-free cannabis is health and the cannabis industry is good for the economy?

How do we reconcile Young’s observation of preaching to the converted and get our message of education, compassion, and economic benefit to those who don’t consume cannabis and aren’t directly vested in the cannabis industry?

Let’s face it: Despite the progress that has been achieved in only a few short years in terms of legalization at the state level, nearly half the country still believes the propaganda and misinformation that has been—and continues to be—broadcast and published by conservative, ignorant, and nefarious forces. How else would a candidate such as Donald Trump achieve the office of President?

Ignorant voters. 

The next time you see someone practicing a bit of civil disobedience and toking in public or wearing a pro-pot T-shirt, think about all of those who aren’t hip to the reality of the medical efficacy and superiority—even recreationally—of cannabis to drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and opioids.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

As I wrote in “The Dark Side of Cannabis Legalization” for Whaxy in April 2015, there is a backlash from those forces in the United States that, for whatever reason, oppose the culture of cannabis and even the medical treatment of severely ill patients with the herb. Possibly they are evangelicals. Maybe the Republican party told them to oppose the legalization of cannabis. Maybe they are simply paramountly ignorant of the benefits and real science of marijuana.

Sorry to harsh your mellow with the image of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions above. But I’ll be honest, I want it to sear itself on your retinas. Don’t forget the very real, extremely well-funded, and vehemently angry opposition that exists to the cannabis industry and those who cultivate, manufacture, sell, or partake of it.

These forces are real. The more success that is gained by the cannabis industry, the more this ignorant and anti-progressive cultural mindset will bring out its big guns in an effort to stop the industry from achieving its goals. Make no assumptions about the future of this industry. This is a culture war; the enemy is amply financed, intelligent, and extremely spiteful.

So what are we going to do? What are you going to do? How does this emerging industry educate nearly half the country that believes cannabis is not a medicine, is bad for society, and is just a bunch of lazy kids and hippies wanting to defy “the man”?

Gooey Rabinski in Toronto, Ontario.

The next time you smile at some pro-pot news in the media, think about the challenges faced by the fragmented marijuana industry. Think about the states that have passed CBD-only laws in a political effort to appease the movement and appear as if they’re helping the sick. Think about cannabis being taxed at rates higher than alcohol in legal states.

Think about the kids and adults rotting in jail who were arrested for minor possession of something they may have been using to deal with anxiety, depression, alcoholism and other hard drugs, or PTSD.

Then ask yourself: Do you ever talk to those outside your circle of cannabis-consuming friends and industry colleagues about the efficacy of marijuana and hemp?

Photo credit: Toronto Star, Toronto Sun

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2018 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.

Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer, photographer, and compliance documentation specialist for cannabis businesses who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, CannaBiz Journal, MERRY JANEEmerald Magazine, Grow Magazine, Herb.coThe KindSkunk, Cannabis Culture, WhaxyHeads, Weed World, Green Flower MediaCannabis HBK11RenderHealth Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.

He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.

His cannabis-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.


Top Cannabis Video Series

There’s no shortage of corny or even marginally engaging YouTube videos regarding the topic of your choice. Dog grooming? There’s gotta be 40,000 videos about it. Cannabis and its culture are no exception. But with so many strain reviews and “let’s toke up, bra!” videos by hoodied teens and hardcore collegiate stoners, where can one turn for a refreshingly intelligent change of pace?

There are some great video series that, together, can go a long way to keeping you current with the political, legal, medicinal, and recreational news about the kind herb—as well as its amazing history of providing medicine, food, and euphoria for humans.

MJ Straight Talk for blog and twitter

While you might consider yourself a fan of cannabis and immune to the Reefer Madness and D.A.R.E. misinformation that has pervaded American culture for more than 80 years, chances are there’s some firmly held belief or perception of cannabis—or the people who smoke it or the black market that makes it available—that you hold that’s not quite accurate. And possibly even dead wrong.

Lest I pontificate further at the expense of your viewing pleasure, I encourage you to check out the series below. You’ll gain not only hours of stimulating entertainment, but also can break through the stigma, stereotypes, and urban legends of cannabis to become a more informed voter and savvy consumer.

Marijuana Straight Talk

Marijuana Straight Talk is a rare and wonderfully educational effort from NPR veteran and rational stoner Becca Williams. Williams, sometimes accompanied by her dog and MacBook, always exudes a positive sense of humor and easy going, intelligent mellowness best characterized by the herb itself.

Williams is executive producer of Marijuana Straight Talk, a series of relatively short videos (three to five minutes each) aimed at entertaining while also defying decades-old social stereotypes and stigma regarding cannabis and those who use it.

becca williams 2 for blog and twitter

Marijuana Straight Talk recently scored a big success in terms of viewer reach: It is now available in a 30-minute format on Free Speech Television Network, which is distributed via DISH Network, DirecTV, and Roku and available to more than 37 million Americans. The show is one of the most highly rated among Free Speech’s stable of progressive shows, which includes Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

In a recent Culture magazine interview, Williams explained how her shows are designed to serve as whimsical infotainment while delivering a serious message of cultural tolerance and education.

“We are a very wounded culture around this plant. It’s been misrepresented to us; there’s been a misinformation campaign. So, we need to educate ourselves around it. Our intent with Marijuana Straight Talk is to move the conversation into a place where we are imagining the best scenarios for how cultural acceptance for cannabis looks in this country.”   — Becca Williams, executive producer

The Pot Scientist Reports

The freshman effort of a Denver talking (pot)head who has dubbed himself the Pot Scientist is one of the better ways I’ve spent two or three minutes of my life. Like Marijuana Straight Talk, TPS Reports (also known as Ask the Pot Scientist) respects the time of viewers, never taking more than a meager slice of one’s spare time to keep up with the series.

The Pot Scientist has tackled topics ranging from the recent decision by the Colorado Board of Health to continue to exclude PTSD from its list of qualifying conditions to cannabis testing to the role of women in the cannabis cultivation industry.

pot scientist for blog and twitter

In early August 2015, the Pot Scientist declared his 20-episode “proof of concept” a success while jokingly thanking his 16 YouTube subscribers.

“I’ve proven to myself that I can write, record, edit, and release weekly video content about the marijuana industry. With this proof in hand, I plan to transform TPS…into a profitable media enterprise.”   — The Pot Scientist

Whether we’ll ever see the young and energetic Pot Scientist again lurking among the petabytes of spirited activist videos on YouTube is anyone’s guess. But hopefully he’ll be back. He’s a smart and engaging host who offers a critical and well-spoken view of current events, especially those in the Boulder or Denver area and within recreationally legalized states. Until his return, there’s 20 short, informative videos available for those who want to educate themselves.

[October 31, 2015 update]

Our wishes have come true, the Pot Scientist is back. He’s cranking out informative cannabis videos on YouTube, active on Twitter, and broadcasting on Periscope on a regular basis.

The Cannabist Show

The Cannabist Show is produced by the Denver Post’s The Cannabist, an online magazine comprised of a video series and daily news articles, including strain reviews and humorous commentary. The show is headquartered at ground zero for the marijuana movement, Denver. Chief editor Ricardo Baca welcomes weekly guests from the cannabis industry, as well as intelligent advocates, activists, and cannabusiness leaders.

The Cannabist Show for blog and twitter

Often, The Cannabist Show will cover issues based in Denver or Colorado, or investigate topics central to states that have legalized recreational cannabis. Shows include interviews with leaders within the Denver and national cannabis legalization scene.

Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer and instructional designer who has contributed feature articles to magazines such as High Times, SKUNK, Heads, Weed World, Cannabis HBK11RenderHealth Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle, and a freelance writer for various cannabis media outlets.

His marijuana-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.