coming out of the cannabis closet

Coming Out Of The Cannabis Closet

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Big cannabis is, as its name implies, pretty big –- billions in sales, hundreds of thousands of employees, and oodles of tax revenue. Its explosive growth over the last several years is the direct result of a few baseline factors: legalization, of course (because it facilitates access and reduces risk), reduction of stigma (mostly due to national retailers doing the “hard yards” and padding their marketing budgets), and the growth of eCommerce (both as an educational tool and as an efficient way for newbies to peruse products in the comfort of their own homes).

More than anything else, though, the primary accelerant of this space has been the proliferation of discrete methods of consumption.

The Cannabis Closet

Based on anonymous surveys, about one in seven American adults uses cannabis in a given year. That’s a ton. But it’s quite apparent to industry participants that less than one in seven American adults would publicly admit their cannabis use. Unfortunately, there’s still a stubborn stigma that still drifts around cannabis and those who use it — and that makes sense.

As a society, we have endured nearly a century of misinformation and scapegoating related to cannabis and the people who indulge in the plant. A benign helper cast as a malignant tumor. Rarely is a false perception as inextricably linked to a single source; cannabis users are lazy, and violent, and bad. Save for pockets of reasonable people, that’s the only message we have heard for decades.

As a result, U.S. policy, pop culture and politics have spawned two subsets of cannabis users: those who openly flaunt their love for the plant, and those who find much the same value, but indulge more discretely. In other words, some people are still in the cannabis closet.

Embracing Discretion

About two decades ago, only a few trailblazing states had embarked on their cannabis legalization adventures, via medical marijuana programs. Dispensaries were a thing then, though they would be unrecognizable if you were only accustomed to today’s sleek and expertly-merchandised shops. But these dispensaries had far fewer products. Here’s what you’d find: flower (in jars, selected with chopsticks), maybe a few pre-rolls, and, well, that’s it.

There was less competition then. There were fewer licenses and the collective / cooperative setup made it less likely for patients to shop around. Less competition means less incentive to innovate. Less innovation means flower and pre-rolls and, again, that’s it.

Back then, if you were a cannabis user, you purchased flower and smoked it or cooked it into really gross brownies. Back then, you had no choice but to live out of the cannabis closet.

The relatively recent phenomenon of adult-use legalization (for recreational purposes) exploded the competitive landscape. Suddenly, there were retail professionals vying for leases, and lawyers, and well-funded money men competing for a piece of the action. Competition resulted in innovation and a race to capture more of a growing pie.

Slicing A Bigger Pie

There are two primary ways for a producer of consumer goods to grow its business. First, convince existing customers to buy more. Or, second, acquire new customers. With a variety of new product (specifically, variety in form factors for consumption) helps in with both areas.

The result has been a whole bunch of things: mints, tinctures, vape oil, gourmet chocolates, pet food, rosin, resin, transdermal patches … the list goes on. This potpourri of product, coupled with increasingly efficient and discrete online purchasing platforms, has permitted brands to inspire more consumption by existing customers who value their privacy, and to capture new users who had previously been hesitant to defy the enduring stigma.

Yes, the stigma persists, but its potency is dwindling — thanks largely to the cornucopia of cannabis consumption options.

With the expansion of marijuana products available, the stigma about users and the industry as a whole is dwindling.

Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet

Before I go any further, I want to assure my friends in the LGBT community this is not intended to minimize your struggle, nor am I suggesting that being Gay is a choice people make, as is the case with using marijuana.

What I am suggesting is, the “Cannabis Closet” is very real.

It would be a pretty safe bet that President John F. Kennedy smoked weed at some point in his life. He socialized with the Hollywood elite of his time, many of whom likely indulged, at least occasionally, in the Devil’s Lettuce. But, back then it was career suicide for anyone to admit to smoking pot, especially someone in the public eye.

Today, we have three Presidents who have admitted to smoking a little wacky weed in their youth. One has even admitted to past cocaine use..

And yet, despite that, many people who use marijuana still cannot admit it, and feel they cannot even advocate for it, even in places like Colorado, where recreational use is legal.

NFL players, for example, are prohibited by the league, regardless of where they live. Obviously police, EMS workers, etc., could easily lose their jobs for using– even in their free time.

All have to pass a drug screening just to get hired in the first place.

Those are all examples of conditions of employment; a contract between parties with everything spelled out. You want to play in the NFL? Don’t smoke pot.

The good news is, attitudes are changing, and people who once could have never spoken out in favor of relaxed marijuana laws– whether they personally used or not– are finally coming forward and saying, “This is the most harmless of recreational drugs, including alcohol.” Mayors, police chiefs, and even prosecutors are acknowledging this fact, and saying what they know is true. There is a growing consensus that policing marijuana violations is a waste of time and resources.

We still have a long way to go, but the signs are encouraging.

Ultimately, marijuana should be regulated the same as beer and wine– both of which can get a person way more wasted than weed– and thereby remove the stigma we still have towards Mary Jane, so that NFL players can smoke some herb to ease the pain Monday afternoon.

It would be nice for anyone in a high stress position, such as police officers and attorneys, to have an option free of the harmful side effects associated with alcohol.

More and more people are stepping forward and saying we need to reconsider our marijuana laws — especially in light of all the evidence.

What really bothers me is how the government– most notably the DEA– is thumbing their noses at JUSTICE. The very thing they are sworn to uphold is completely subverted in outdated rhetoric and unscientific principles.

Twenty six states now have medicinal marijuana, yet the DEA refuses to admit it has medicinal value. This is clearly a contradiction that impacts our Constitutional rights.

If Congress refuses to take action, and the main agency in charge of overseeing drug policy blatantly refuses to acknowledge what is in fact OVERWHELMING evidence of the efficacy of medicinal marijuana, the courts must intercede.

The court is the last resort of the people in seeking justice.

The fact that 26 states have MM, in itself is proof. Beyond that, I am heartily sick and tired of the rigged game the government has been playing for the past 40-plus years with their utterly failed war on drugs.

The United States holds a patent on this worthless weed, yet denies it has value, despite the fact that the patent is based on the chemical composition of marijuana itself.

This chemical composition has been proven to be an effective medical treatment for a variety of conditions. Yet the DEA denies it, preventing further research, keeping the FDA out of the loop while acting like they have nothing to do with an outdated policy they cannot possibly defend in the light of day.

If the legislature refuses to act, our courts may be the only way to remedy this blatant injustice.

This is why I filed a Motion in the court of Allegheny county, PA., challenging the Schedule 1 classification of marijuana as being a violation of our Constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

This is why, many years ago, I came out of the Cannabis Closet.

Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet Before I go any further, I want to assure my friends in the LGBT community this is not intended to minimize your struggle, nor am I suggesting that being Gay is