Van der Pop

Secret Smoker


Dear Vandy,

I have recently decided to pursue a career in the cannabis industry. I figured since the plant is an important part of my life it was time to discuss my cannabis use with my mother – a board certified pediatrician. She now sees my cannabis use as a “problem” because she believes I “self-medicate.” I believe her words exactly were, “If you are using marijuana to self-medicate, that is no longer social use and is a problem.”

I suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, and cannabis is one of the few things that can provide me some relief. When I try to express that, she pushes for pills. It makes me want to just lie to her and say that I only smoke “occasionally, with friends!” – a lie that I have been feeding her for the last few years at least.

I have tried providing reading materials for her but it’s hard for her to really get behind medical cannabis, especially when used for anxiety because there are many studies that say cannabis is bad for anxiety. I really want to stop having to live a double life, but don’t really know where to go from here! Any advice?

Secret Smoker


Dear Secret Smoker,

Let me start by recognizing how hard this must be and how alone you must feel. Nobody wants to be a disappointment to their parents. But let me also take a minute to celebrate you. It takes courage to put a stake in the ground — you’re going to be a cannabis boss! — and more still to find a solution that both respects your inner truth and looks out for your mom.

You’re in a tough spot, that much is clear. But good news! The wind at your back is picking up pace.

As you well know, legislative reform is stoking a long overdue conversation. And while that may feel a little half-hearted — thanks to the undoing of our hard work by little monsters like Jeff Sessions — things are changing.

Cannabis businesses are cropping up like never before; some are even publicly traded. A few banks are maneuvering to accommodate these businesses. CBD cocktails abound. There’s even a CBD nail salon in California. This here moment marks a collective rebrand for all of us cannabis sisters and you, Secret Smoker, deserve to bask in its buttery glory.

But, there are a lot of people out there like your mom who aren’t quite ready to kick back. And to be honest, we can’t really blame them.

Your mom can’t find current studies about the benefits of weed because, since the 1930s, there have been very few. Roughly 6% of all current U.S. cannabis studies focus on the benefits. The rest? They’re all about how it will ruin your life.

To conduct a study, it turns out, you need two things: access to cannabis and approval. Getting access to a Schedule 1 substance, much less approval to play with it, is near impossible. Unless of course, your research corroborates the belief of those in power. As you can imagine, studies about the dangers of weed have a much easier time getting approval and, not surprisingly, getting access to boatloads of the plant rather immaculately.

All this paints a pretty warped picture for people like your mom.

That being said, your mom is also probably responding to her own bad experience. While you’re right to point out the studies that show cannabis can be bad for anxiety, let us not forget the ones that show it helps. And the others that go the extra mile to dissect the many types of cannabis on the market and the myriad ways of ingesting it — all of which deliver a completely different effect. Cannabis is sophisticated now. To paint it with one brush stroke — to call it basic!—is just reductive.

Look, you have a lot of work to do. There’s no sugar coating it. But the way I see it, you also have options and with every passing day, growing support from the mainstream.

First, you could poke around for any cannabis-positive events nearby, like sound healings or canna-yoga classes, and bring mom to one of them. There’s so much more to these experiences than cannabis, but it will help her to see first-hand how the plant plays within these contexts, how transformative these experiences are, and how objectively warm is the community.

Another idea might be to track down a new doctor for yourself — one you think she might actually respect — whose practice incorporates cannabis. After a few visits, you could bring mom to an appointment. No knocks on your grasp of the science, but is it possible she would be more open to hearing about how cannabis has helped you from a fellow doc?

And finally, when in doubt, ask YouTube. “WEED” is an incredible three-part documentary from 2013 by neurosurgeon and Emmy Award-winning CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta. I could go on and on but let’s just say, if Dr. Gupta can’t convince your mom, I’ll eat my sweater. He wrote an editorial for TIME in 2009 justifying why he would vote against legalization. And four years later, he issued a public apology for that piece and for his role in the decades-long systemic misleading of Americans around the issue of cannabis. This CNN series is all about why he changed his mind. It’s powerful and, at a minimum, should be required viewing for all. Make popcorn, invite mom, and gear up for a candid conversation after the show ends.

The bottom line is, your need for approval is both honest and brave. And that you can articulate that while also realizing the importance of pursuing your passion is something special, and I’m proud of you. From here, trust this will take time. Remember to hold your mom’s hand as much as possible. Be careful not to downplay her experience. And keep your stash close.

Goodness knows, this won’t be easy. But I believe in you.

Highest Regards,

Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.

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