Life as an academic cannabis enthusiast represents a unique cultural intersection. Up until now I have felt obliged to hide part of my identity for fear of social or professional persecution. I wondered how my conservative peers and professors would judge my affiliation with the cannabis counterculture. Would they discount my intelligence or abilities if I shared this side of me with them? Would they typecast me into the role of stereotypical stoner? I felt as though my career – my future – would be jeopardized if I were honest.
For nearly 7 years, cannabis (and yes, I use this term instead of “marijuana” or “pot” because such slang serves to diminish the scientific value of the plant) has been my substance of choice. When I first experimented with it I immediately recognized the significantly positive effect it had on my anxiety while expanding my consciousness to new heights. Cannabis catalyzes within me the ability to take what I learn and morph it into universal knowledge. It allows me to be genuine with myself and provides an immensely beneficial cognitive lens through which I can understand my experiences.
This perspective of cannabis, however, does not fit with the standard schema for academic life. I am a counseling student and in my classes as well as professional experience I have seen cannabis treated as a detrimental drug on par with heroin and cocaine. In many regards, substance use remains a moral issue as opposed to a public health issue. The current system continues to oppress those who wish to consume a natural substance with proven benefits.
The stigma surrounding cannabis is still disappointingly strong, even in the academic world, despite research contradicting such prejudicial attitudes toward it. Although I am disheartened by the lack of awareness that still remains around this issue, it is important to recognize that the only way to remedy this is through advocacy, open discussion, and continued research to substantiate the cannabis cause.
While the descriptors “educated” and “cannabis user” may appear dissonant to many, this cross-hair of characteristics is my niche and I am proud to say I am not alone. Thanks to the online cannabis community, I gained the confidence to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory values into a singular and holistic manifestation of my character. I am not ashamed of my lifestyle. This culture is a part of my identity and I will always fight for the rights of those who share this passion with me. I have found a home in cannabis culture because I feel accepted. Now it is time to translate this into the self-acceptance that will be necessary if I am to be a true advocate for my community.