I recall an episode from about 10 years ago, when I was in Toronto covering a legalization rally at the beginning of my cannabis-themed freelance writing and photography career. 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 energizing event. Total strangers shared their herb, often samples that fans of the culture had grown themselves. I recall young, smart gardeners from throughout Ontario approaching me with beautiful cannabis buds 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 kind herb permeating the consciousness of all participants and the sweet, dank 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.
I had always liked and respected the charismatic, hyper-intelligent, and always insightful Young, and was happy for the opportunity to spend some time speaking with him about the rally and the entire Canadian cannabis movement. Being from the States, the Canadians 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 superlative herb 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. Suddenly time froze.
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, typically 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.
If you’re reading this, chances are you, too, are a fan of the cannabis culture. We all must ask ourselves: How effectively are we educating and influencing those around us who don’t embrace the kind herb? Campaigns like #ComingOutGreen and countless others strive to lead by example, defying stereotypes and decades of stigma created by the 1930s Reefer Madness and drug war hysteria that has pervaded our nature-loving culture for nearly a century.
How do we reconcile Young’s observation of preaching to the converted and get our message of education, understanding, and compassion to those who don’t consume cannabis on a daily basis or maybe never have?
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.
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 opiates.
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. Possibly the Republican party told them to oppose legal weed. Maybe they are simply paramountly ignorant of the benefits and real science of pot.
Sorry to harsh your mellow with the image of New Jersey governor Chris Christie 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 kind herb and those who cultivate, sell, partake of, or medicate with it.
These forces are real. The more success that is gained by the cannabis movement, the more this ignorant and anti-progressive cultural mindset will bring out its big guns in an effort to stop our culture from achieving its goals. Make no assumptions about the future of this movement. This is a culture war; the enemy is amply financed, intelligent, and—to say the least—extremely spiteful.
So what are we going to do? What are you going to do? Coming out green is part of the equation. But how do we, as a movement, educate nearly half the country that believes herb is not a medicine, is bad for society, and is just a bunch of lazy, dirty hippies wanting to share weed and defy “the man”?
The next time you smile at some pro-pot news in the media, think about the challenges we face. 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 about the efficacy of marijuana and hemp?
Photo credit: Toronto Star, Toronto Sun
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 Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself. He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle, and a contributing writer at Whaxy.com.