All photos courtesy of Jane West, unless otherwise noted.
Jane West is the founder of Women Grow, the cannabis industry’s largest professional networking organization, and is now the CEO of her eponymous cannabis lifestyle brand Jane West. In her new column for MERRY JANE, Jane Says, the entrepreneur and advocate will be offering advice and her perspective about all things green. To start, she explores the ever-relevant question: How can we destigmatize cannabis?
I’ve gone to so many meetings with high-powered executives who say, usually near the end of the meeting, that they’ve never actually tried cannabis. Imagine that in other industries: If Steve Jobs never used a Mac. If Elon Musk never once tried driving a Tesla.
It’s all about the stigma that still exists around cannabis. Here in Colorado, five years after we launched the world’s first fully legal, regulated cannabis market, I still see the impacts of lingering prohibition-era stereotypes.
People don’t know how to share their joint or vape pen in social situations, or even if they should. Parents don’t know how to talk to their kids about legal cannabis. Adults don’t know how to come out of the cannabis closet to their family members, their boss, or their doctor. Accomplished professionals don’t know how to turn their passion for cannabis into a fulfilling career.
I am here to help change that. After working in this incredible industry for over half a decade, I’ve learned a thing or two about the brave new world of cannabis, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along the way. As a result, I figure I have enough useful information to write about how we can all make cannabis a more normalized and fulfilling part of modern-day life.
I aim to venture far and wide in this advice column, exploring rapidly shifting cannabis etiquette and mores in the home, in the workplace, in social situations, and in the bedroom. I already have a lot of ideas, but I welcome your suggestions and queries. Have question about cannabis you’re dying for somebody to answer? Contact me on Facebook or email [email protected] with “Jane Says” in the subject line.
To kick things off, let’s keep this first column simple: How can we fight the stigma surrounding cannabis? I’m not talking about passing new cannabis reform laws or supporting pro-cannabis candidates. I’m referring to simple things we can all do in our daily lives so we can all lessen the ill-informed, negative ideas that many still have about cannabis — both within the industry and outside it.
I love the smell and taste of cannabis flower, but its distinctive aroma is not for everyone. While there is a world of difference between the effects of combusted tobacco and cannabis, smoking of any kind (pre-rolled joints included) is frequently frowned upon, and plenty of cannabis consumers are conscious of the comfort of those around them. So if you do allow smoking at your house, why not put everyone at ease?
Identify an outdoor spot for lighting up and make it welcoming with blankets, ashtrays, and lighters. Trust me, my fellow flower enthusiasts will happily kick back on a towel-covered inner tube on the ground if it means we have a place to puff at a social event of any kind. By creating a clearly defined smoking zone, you’re also signaling a respect for all guest’s preferences, and, ideally, providing a safe space where the cannabis curious can learn more.
One easy way to announce that your home is cannabis-friendly and invite people to partake is to simply put ashtrays and lighters out. If you’re hosting a party, make sure to have an appealing selection of non-alcoholic beverages available to your guests. For an extra- welcome touch, arrange some joints in an ashtray or put out a tray with some pre-packed bowls and an attractive bong.
Besides smoking flower, there are other cannabis products that you can use to challenge misconceptions and lessen the intimidation factor. CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of my favorite ways to introduce the benefits of cannabis to the uninitiated.
Thanks to Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s WEED docuseries and ample health and wellness coverage, CBD is omnipresent and on everyone’s radar. For many, however, awareness doesn’t equal understanding.
Social gatherings are a great place to share CBD-infused products and the benefits of cannabis-derived compounds without the seemingly-scary psychoactive effects of THC. We gather together to kick back and enjoy one another’s company, and CBD is an excellent social lubricant without a hangover or even a high. I like to brew a batch of my branded CBD Coffee to share when I have people over. Sharing a cup of CBD coffee invites my guests to connect with cannabis in the context of the familiar coffee ritual, with the added bonus of stimulating conversation, a chance to ask and answer questions, and an opportunity to help everyone relax.
On Consuming Cannabis as a Guest
So what if you’re attending a party instead of hosting it? You’re offered a drink, but you’d rather smoke that joint you rolled up while getting ready. It can feel awkward to decline a cocktail even when you aren’t looking to light up, but I’ve found that it’s best to just address the situation head on. I keep it simple, saying, “I’m better with cannabis.” After all, it’s the truth.
Then, ask if it’s OK if you can smoke a joint inside or outside the function. Keep it polite and straightforward, as well, but don’t get upset if they decline. It’s not your home, after all, and some people have strict landlords.
Whatever you choose to say, do it without passing judgement. No high horse, no reminder of just how many calories are in that sugar-filled margarita rimmed with dehydrating salt, no predictions about much better off you’ll be tomorrow. Just say thanks and make your preference for cannabis clear. If you happen to spark a conversation, all the better. Stay reasonable, honest, and authentic about which products you consume, how often, and why.
Be bold when you can and share how you feel. Ditch the decoy seltzer and lime and get used to letting people know that you’re high right now.. .and it’s amazing. When you’re open, honest, and true to yourself, your enthusiasm has the power to inspire others to rethink their beliefs about cannabis consumers.
On My Personal Cannabis Usage
In some way shape or form, I consume cannabis every day — and I’m not hiding it. As a result, I’ve heard that my daily use equals addiction. This could not be further from the truth, though there is contentious talk about cannabis dependency. My mom gets a decaf venti coffee with two Splendas every single day. Is that an addiction? Whether it’s coffee, yoga, a few late-afternoon squares of dark chocolate, or a glass of wine with dinner, we all have our daily rituals. Mine just happens to be cannabis. And guess what? It’s calorie-free, has an immediate mood-boosting effect, and it’s completely legal in my state and many others.
Misinformation and judgement can be so frustrating. After all, we’re all just trying to live our lives. But I would encourage all of my fellow cannabis consumers to see the backwards comments and questions we hear as opportunities to change minds. We should assume that more often than not, someone who takes the time to say something about our choices is curious on some level.
Stock up on straightforward facts about the known benefits of cannabis from reputable sources like government reports or medical journals, as well as researched articles at reputable publications like MERRY JANE. That means decreased opioid deaths, increased tax revenue, hundreds of thousands of jobs, less potentially harmful prescription medications being taken by patients, and reductions in overall consumption among teens in legalized states. It doesn’t mean touting this amazing herb as a cure-all, or shaming anyone for their choices.
Meet people where they are. Evaluate their ability to be open-minded about cannabis and remember that conversation is a two-way street. The most compelling, best researched pro-cannabis arguments out there are nothing if you can’t connect with the person you’re speaking to. Listen without judgement, and build trust. Remember that you’re at a party, not a political rally. Instead of trying to convince or convert, simply think of your conversation as a turning point. If all else fails, just answer their questions honestly. You may be the first person they’ve had a chance to ask.
However you choose to fight the stigma surrounding cannabis, remember that every effort helps. Change is incremental, and after a decades-long campaign war of misinformation about cannabis, we have our work cut out for us. Stay brave, be true to yourself, and don’t forget to have fun.