Having a "Marijuana" Conversation
Having a "Marijuana" Conversation
The most effective way to build support for marijuana reform is to talk about it with those you know best.
Ensure those around you are informed and explain to them why you support ending marijuana prohibition. More specifically, talk about marijuana itself and help other people understand it is not as bad as they might think it is. This doesn't mean you need to begin a debate at the dinner table or even campaign for this specific initiative. Just keep an eye and ear out for opportunities to discuss the issue.
Be sure to listen and try to avoid an argument. The goal here is not to make the person feel "wrong" or "stupid," which might galvanize their current opinion. Just make them aware of your feelings on the subject so that they will take them into consideration as they hear about the subject more and more leading up to the election.
It's these types of personal conversations that will build and strengthen support for the initiative and weaken our opposition. And if every supporter of this campaign has them frequently enough, many more voters will feel comfortable with the question when they see it on the ballot.
Much of the following information has been reproduced/adapted from the book, Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?, (Chelsea Green, 2009) by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert.
Marijuana is safer than alcohol.
- We are not adding a vice; we are allowing adults the option to choose a less harmful alternative for relaxation and recreation. Currently laws intentionally steer citizens toward the use of alcohol, when many of them would prefer to use a far less harmful substance, marijuana.
- I believe that adults should have the legal choice to use whichever substance they prefer. It simply doesn’t make any sense at all to punish adults who make the rational decision to consume the less harmful of the two substances.
- What bothers you so much about the notion of an adult using marijuana responsibly in the privacy of his or her own home? Would you be equally bothered over the idea of an adult using alcohol in this same situation? If not, why not? Why would you prefer adults consume alcohol?
When someone says: “Alcohol is bad enough. Why should we add another vice?”
- Reply: We are not adding a vice; we are allowing adults the option to choose a less harmful alternative for relaxation and recreation. Currently, laws intentionally steer Americans toward the use of alcohol when many of these citizens would prefer to use a far less dangerous substance, marijuana.
When someone says: “So you want more people using marijuana?”
- Reply: Not necessarily, but I do believe that adults should have the legal choice to use whichever substance they prefer. It simply doesn’t make sense to punish adults who make the rational choice to consume the less harmful of the two substances.
When someone says: “I just don’t like the idea of more people using marijuana.”
- Reply: What bothers you so much about the notion of an adult using marijuana responsibly in the privacy of his or her own home? Are you equally bothered by the idea of an adult using alcohol under these same circumstances? If not, why not? Why would you rather have adults solely consuming alcohol?
When someone says: “Well, I don’t agree that people should use either substance.”
- Reply: We are not going back to alcohol prohibition. Alcohol, just like marijuana, is here to stay. The only question to debate is whether our society should keep steering people toward booze or whether we ought to allow adults legal access to a less harmful alternative that is far less likely to lead to violent and destructive behavior.
When someone says: “Okay, so maybe pot is less dangerous than booze. But smoking marijuana is still illegal.”
- Reply: Well, maybe it shouldn’t be. Tens of millions of Americans use marijuana. Do you really think it makes sense to put these people in jail or to waste law enforcement resources and court time issuing and processing citations? Why should our laws punish adults who choose to use the less harmful substance?
When someone says: “But won’t legalizing marijuana make it more available to children?”
- Reply: How much more available could marijuana be? Marijuana prohibition has created a situation in which more than 85 percent of high school seniors say it is ‘very easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to obtain, and nearly one out of two high school seniors has tried it. It is hard to imagine a system, including one of legalization, that would create and environment where our children have even greater access to marijuana than they already do.
When someone asks: “But aren’t you concerned that you’re sending the wrong message to kids?”
- Reply: Lying about the relative dangers of pot and alcohol, as our social and criminal policies do now, is sending the wrong message to our children. We are misinforming our kids that alcohol is safer than marijuana. That message has literally killed thousands of teenagers and will continue to cause countless more deaths. We recognize that kids are exposed to both substances, and the truth is that we don’t want adolescents using either one. But we don’t do them any favors by creating the false impression that alcohol is safer to consume than marijuana. Even putting aside the multitude of societal problems associated with alcohol use – like violence and sexual assault – the truth is that teenagers can die from an alcohol overdose. That is simply not possible with marijuana. Yet some surveys show that teens falsely believe that it is safer to binge drink than to use cannabis. We must be honest with kids about the relative harms of the two substances, while discouraging the use of either one.
When someone says: “But if we make marijuana legal, we will have more lazy stoners sitting around doing nothing.”
- Reply: That is just a stereotype. Millions of Americans enjoy marijuana occasionally at dinner parties or other gathering with friends. Their behavior is no different than the way many adults consume alcohol. To say that every marijuana user is a lazy stoner is the same as saying that every person who drinks is overly aggressive and is likely to cause harm to himself or others.
When someone says: “I basically agree with you, but I don’t want more ‘stoners’ out on the streets.”
- Reply: What is it about an adult using marijuana responsibly that makes you so uncomfortable? If you were walking down the street at night with a friend, would you prefer to encounter a group of men who had been drinking or a group of guys who had been smoking marijuana?
- If you're comfortable doing so, come out and say that you use(d) marijuana. Explain how it benefits or benefited you and how its effects and your experiences have not reflected all the propoganda and stereotypes. Also describe the ways in which it is a safer choice than alcohol.
- If the issue comes up while others are enjoying a beer or some other alcoholic beverage, simply note that marijuana is actually far less harmful than alcohol. It is less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to be associated with violent behavior. This point can also be made if someone brings up a story that involves alcohol (eg. a time someone got sick or did something dangerous).
- Discuss the impact marijuana laws have had on you and/or others you know. There have been more than 20 million marijuana-related arrests in the United States since 1965. Therefore, it is likely that someone you or your family member or friend knows has had a marijuana-related run-in with the law at some point in their life. These situations provide you with an opportunity to publicly defend someone you and/or others know who has been inappropriately punished for making the rational choice to use a less harmful substance.
- Talk about how you or someone you know has benefited from medical marijuana, and how it is a far safer option than many prescription drugs, such as painkillers. If a family member mentions a health problem for which marijuana is considered an effective treatment, ask them if they've ever thought about trying medical marijuana. If you know of someone who has used it to treat a similar condition, be sure to mention it. Also be sure to respect patients' privacy and do not identify anyone without their consent.
Marijuana- and alcohol-related news stories and current events
- Highlight stories about marijuana that were recently in the news. The local and national media are constantly reporting on marijuana-related legislative activities, research, and polls, as well as relatable issues such as drug cartel and gang violence, the economy, etc.
- Inject the topic into conversations about alcohol-related news and events. Bar fights, celebratory riots after professional or sports championships, disruptive and drunken behavior at sporting events, out-of-control college parties, and news about professional athletes getting arrested for violent behavior after a night of drinking are all incidents that can serve as a starting point.
- Celebrities and other public figures in marijuana- or alcohol-related incidents always make for good conversation. For example, there are frequently reports of: professional athletes busted by police or testing positive for marijuana; actors caught using it on camera or discussing it positively in interviews; and all sorts of famous people getting into trouble while under the influence of alcohol
- Discuss a movie, documentary, or television show that accurately portrays the responsible use of marijuana or addresses a relatable subject. For example, if you've seen the Ken Burns documentary about alcohol prohibition that aired on PBS, note the parallels between alcohol prohibition and marijuana prohibition. Also, more and more popular movies and televisions shows are depicting marijuana as a normal and unproblematic element of American society.