By most people’s definition, I am a pothead, a stoner, a burnout… you know, one of “those” people. I come from the Midwest, so I am fully aware of the labels and preconceived notions about people who partake in cannabis consumption. Growing up in Iowa, I smoked as teenager; and unlike the bragging rights you earned slamming beer bongs and puking on someone’s basement floor, heaven forbid you light up a jay. Marijuana was, and still is, very demonized. No “upstanding member of society” smoked pot, so after I graduated high school, I stopped using marijuana entirely.

I was 34 years old when the corporation I worked for sent me to San Francisco to manage the IT aspects of a banking/financial corporate merger. The sales team was flying in from Washington and Oregon for a training event, so everyone was going to be in one location. Only a couple of days after I arrived, I was shocked to learn absolutely everyone (not exaggerating)… everyone smoked pot. I sat with groups of banking and financial sales people, and their executives, passing joints. I ate infused peanut brittle with the VP of the bank while sitting at a bar in Berkley. I walked through a park near the bay with about ten people after a social function, so we could smoke a blunt. This business trip opened my eyes to a strange new world.

Despite what I had been taught growing up, I realized I could be a successful, contributing member of society and still smoke. Granted, in Iowa, it came with a risk since they still prosecute some of the most petty marijuana offenses. Plus, most companies do some type of drug testing as well, so you have to become stealthy. Look folks, behind the scenes, the Human Resources departments in your companies call pre-employment drug screens, “IQ Tests”… because if you’re dumb enough not to take a break or cleanse your system before you go in for that test then you’re not smart enough to work for them.

Shortly after this trip to California, I starting working for a small telecommunications company in Des Moines that considered implementing a random drug screening policy. However, when it was brought up during the executive meeting, one of the managers spoke up and said, “You do realize that if you do this, we are liable to lose about fifty percent of our staff, right?” They were right, much of the staff frequently held private “coffee breaks” which had absolutely nothing to do with getting caffeinated and the after work parties never went without someone breaking out the ganja.

Now, as a cannabis advisor in the legal industry, I still see some of those classic reactions of disbelief from tourists when I mention that I had a twenty-year corporate career prior to budtending. In fact, there are still people from back home convinced that I’m doing nothing different that your average street dealer, despite the fact that I have never done anything illegal in my entire life short of a couple traffic tickets.

I have seen several images floating around the internet of famous athletes that are lighting up. Nate Diaz is under the microscope because he was openly vaping a CBD pen after his fight. He was correct in his statement about it helping with the healing process, he wasn’t “getting high”… he was medicating.  An NFL player was photographed shopping in a Seattle dispensary and it was all the uproar on the internet. Why? If he was picking up his prescription for Oxycontin, would it make you feel better? If so, why? Because it’s legal? Take a pill that is highly addictive, killing people every single day, and completely pollutes your body simply because the government says it’s ok, where’s the logic in that?

My husband and I are no different than any other married couple except that we don’t have a cabinet full of liquor bottles any more, or a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions. Instead, we have cannabis in multiple forms. We use Apothecanna much like you use, Bio-Freeze or BenGay. I use indica concentrates, for the same reasons I used take Ativan three or more times a day. Gary uses edibles in place of highly dangerous opiates. We use indica flower the way you would a glass of fine merlot after a long day; and I know of sativa strains that work like Adderall if you’re looking for a boost of energy, motivation, and focus. On weekends and days off, do we binge on occasion just for the fun of it? Certainly, no differently than you would drinking beer while tailgating, or at a lawn party at a friend’s house, except that we don’t wake up with a hangover the next morning.

I truly believe someday, marijuana will be looked at no differently than a dietary supplement, vitamin, and/or herb. An essential oil critical for maintaining health. As laws start to change and more research is done to see how this sacred plant can heal the body, cannabis users will become more mainstream. Much like being vegan, eating organic or gluten-free, cannabis users are simply choosing a more natural way to treat what ails them. Don’t be so quick judge, in fact, ask questions. I don’t know too many stoners that don’t enjoy talking about their green. Bridge the gap, change the perception, and make a friend!

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