“Stoner”, “burnout”, “pothead”… these are all terms that I grew up hearing as slang for one who uses cannabis recreationally. The presumption of societal stigma surrounding cannabis use is that one who uses cannabis is inherently ill or flawed. Surrounded by PSA imagery, commercials, and school programs designed to scare me into seeing cannabis as evil, and the use of it as a personal flaw, that stigma found its way into my core self.
When I experimented with cannabis use as a young adult, I hid it. Instead of having access to safe product, and education surrounding safe use, I “learned” from other young adults who were equally as unprepared for responsible consumption as I was. And none of us talked to our parents or other more mature adults about it out of fear of prejudice and shaming.
I first started experimenting with recreational cannabis, when the United Nations World Drug report showed cannabis use in the United States at roughly 12 – 15% of the population aged 15 – 64 years. This was prior to any states legalizing recreational adult use of cannabis. And yet, I thought that I, along with 15% of the rest of the US, was somehow worthy of ridicule.
There are a lot of reasons why the narrative surrounding cannabis use was what it was, and to a certain degree remains what it is today. Those reasons, including a long list of prejudices that I am unqualified to speak to, ultimately will take many years to unravel. In the meantime, I have learned to let go.
Here are a few things I know about myself…
I am a step-mom to a really cool kid
He knows what I do for a living (manage cannabis companies and cannabis investments). He also knows that I use cannabis, but do so safely. For example, when his girlfriend was over at our place one night, I asked him if she needed a ride home because I was considering having an edible and didn’t want to if she needed a ride. I literally said that to him. I believe that good parenting means modeling responsible behavior, so I did. He is going to be exposed to cannabis someday, and I want him to know that choosing to use it as an adult is okay as long as you do so safely.
I am a CPA, and business professional
I started my career in public accounting specializing in tax, and transitioned out of public to work directly with cannabis companies and their investors to bring professionalism to an emerging regulated industry with a thriving legacy market. Throughout my career, I have recreationally used cannabis. My professionalism, ethics, and commitment to my work are aspects of my character which have never waivered, regardless of any recreational cannabis use. My ability to be successful has not been impacted. Nor have my relationships with clients or contacts in the community. Lets ask ourselves, is this cannabis stigma warranted? If so, what about alcohol?
I don’t really like alcohol very much
Social settings in the United States are full of alcohol. Sporting events, professional networking events, charity galas, book clubs, picnics in the park, theaters, the Taco Bell Cantina in Las Vegas… the list goes on. We have collectively decided that “fun” and “being social” should include alcohol. This is not unique to the US, nor is it new; there are literally thousands of years of history of alcohol use throughout the world.
Although, I really like making and drinking fancy cocktails, I really don’t like the way that alcohol makes me feel. It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy an altered state, I just don’t like the altered state that alcohol leaves me in… especially when I am around other people. I feel slow and sloppy. I feel tired. It’s not fun at all. Sounds similar to the stigma people place on cannabis.
On the flipside, cannabis does not affect me in that way. When I use cannabis products, I feel relaxed in mind, but energized in body. I feel engaged in the activity, and as though I can experience more joy in the company of others. This is an altered state that feels fun and connective. Recreation is about fun and connection, so it makes sense that recreational cannabis fits the bill for me.
I am rebellious
In elementary school, I found a book in the library that was similar to an encyclopedia, but it was a listing of the first person to do a wide variety of things. I loved it. Imagine a 3rd grader reading about the first person to open a meat packing factory in the US. That’s the kind of kid I was. Ever since then, and likely before, I have been so interested in new things; the newest technology, the emerging industry, the new trend, etc.
I am the only CPA that I know with purple hair, gauges in my ears, and a growing collection of tattoos. I am a female FPS gamer, a lesbian, and a cannabis user. Even better, I am not ashamed of any of it. I am so many things that push boundaries and defy expectations. Maybe I’m the first of my kind (fingers crossed that I get into that book of firsts, 2023 edition), but I guarantee there will be millions more after me.
So what does this all mean for Morgan Hopkins?
In the end, maybe the world of my younger years would have called me a stoner or a pothead. Is that what I am? Maybe. Maybe I can reclaim and redefine those words by being the example of what a cannabis user actually looks like. Or maybe we can come up with a new word to describe a cannabis user that isn’t bloated with decades of manufactured stigma. Or maybe we don’t need a word at all. My submission for the new term to describe a cannabis user: a person. I hope everyone has the confidence to Live Like You want to. After all we only get one chance at it.