When Is It Okay to Be Stoned?

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I have been using cannabis for the better part of eight years. As a teenage stoner in South Carolina during the late aughts, marijuana was relatively hard to come by, highly illegal, and not of great quality, so I was limited to using it privately and only for occasions that I believed it would be put to its optimal use (before bed, on the beach). However, it is now 2014 and I am a resident of the great state of California, where quality medical marijuana is easily accessible, legal for me to utilize, and consumable in unprecedented & unobtrusive ways.

For responsible adults living in the handful of states where cannabis culture has more or less matured into an accepted lifestyle choice, both lawfully and aesthetically, things have never been better. So why is it that even in these highly tolerant times — where marijuana leaf iconography has graduated from kitschy Las Vegas gift shop wares to high fashion and gilded vape pens are the accessory du jour, I still find myself in social situations where I feel disreputed, judged, and dismissed for being stoned?

I think it’s safe for me to assume that much of this boils down to the way a certain type of misinformed non-user continues to place marijuana patients and consumers in that outdated and cartoonish class of stoners where slackerdom, absentmindedness, apathy, and a general mocking attitude towards the undeviating rules of adulthood seem to be the only foundations of a fulfilled cannabinoid-enriched life. These generalizations tend to be based equally in stereotypes perpetuated by movies and television and in especially unwholesome or dimwitted weed experiences from early high school.

Whether or not these types of non-users can laugh alongside all of us as we watch James Franco do the worm in Pineapple Express is not that debatable (they probably will); the question is whether or not these same people can, on their good, non-marijuana-induced conscience, respect frequent users in their social circles as real professionals, adults, parents or coworkers.

Respect in this situation is a tricky subject to debate for me, mostly due to the fact that marijuana was considered a drug for the better part of my and many of my social peers’ lives. And when you’re a teenager, doing drugs, whether or not they were soft or hard or tried only once, meant that kids your age probably gave you the side-eye in the hallway before whispering about how stoned you looked at the basketball game last week.

To be a stoner girl in high school meant I must be a burnout or a try-hard or the kind of girl that smoked pot for the boys that came along with it. There wasn’t any room for discussion regarding an independent decision I made to use marijuana simply because I liked it, because, at that age, you can’t possibly know what you like. In college, pot toed the fine line between the youthful and socially acceptable “everybody does it in college” mentality and the “you’ll grow out of it” assertion held by people like my parents. It was just a phase in an isolated world full of partygoers, amateur poets, and people with guitars.

A few of my friends stopped smoking pot after about the 2 year post-college mark; I, however, never gave it a thought. As with countless other marijuana patients, I found it useful and necessary to combat a constantly running mind, a mild case of tendonitis from 13 years of playing the violin, and bouts of midlife social anxiety and depression. These were all normal, mild side effects from how I had lived my life up to that point, and I never once questioned whether or not abstaining from cannabis would benefit me in any way.

But along with my new sense of medical marijuana being less of a sedative and more of an everyday supplement came the overwhelming sensation that I was becoming more and more of a joke to my peers. I was the girl that still continued to use weed way after college, the girl that got high before walking to the bank or doing laundry. I continued to lead a productive, post-grad life; I bought myself a car, I moved myself out to California, I had good credit. Why did I feel that now, when I had a personal and emotional life seemingly under control, like everyone saw me some kind of pitiable, mid-twenties stoner woman who needed to grow up already?

Maybe I was preying on my own insecurities. After all, being able to use cannabis so freely was relatively new to me, and perhaps that freedom came along with a little bit of guilt — guilt I felt heavily whenever I would use the excuse “I just got high” to get out of late-night ride requests from my housemates or certain last-minute social situations. But that guilt immediately evaporated when party after party, lunch date after lunch date, I repeatedly got a variant of the question, “are you seriously stoned right now?” (followed by light disdain or uncomfortable laughter).

It had become less of a rhetorical, cute-ish inquiry and more, it seemed, of an attack on my character. If my maturity level wasn’t being silently evaluated, I was instead being dismissed as endearingly frivolous, which almost felt worse. It was easy to shake off the basic marijuana disapprovers, but being shrugged off as the friend who will endearingly never grow up insulted my ambitions, commitments, and intelligence.

When it came to professional situations, the personal backlash that I felt from my social environment left me more insecure than I had ever felt in my career. Using marijuana before functions sure to be full of networking left me feeling irresponsible and constantly checking for red eyes, even though I knew that without being a little high I was sure to be much quieter and less inviting.

Of course, I had no way to prove if I giving in to slight paranoia. But I had seen my coworkers’ facetious reactions to my coffee table bong. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that it seemed that people in my social circles latched on to my most controversial trait as an easy explanation of my personality — I was watered down to a caricature with no room left for anything besides me + weed.

So where did that leave me? Where does it leave any responsible adult marijuana user, patient or not? Because some of us no longer have to worry about the petty obstacles to being high (i.e., the law), we are now stuck with a legitimate desire to live stigma-free, away from the destructive thought processes that make some of us feel as if we are somehow less responsible than non-using adults.

I don’t believe that all of the people who have casually commented on my marijuana habit are disparaging me, although I do think that they are possibly questioning, rhetorically or not, why the hell a twenty-five year old adult woman would choose to get high so often, before most workouts and weekend errands, and before any and all get-togethers where small talk, karaoke, and food will be involved. And to be honest, I don’t think I owe them an answer.

For previous Ladybud stories that deal with stoner stereotypes, click here!

Photo Credit: Marc St. Gil under public domain via Wikimedia Commons