What to Do When You Feel Shamed For Using Weed

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Even though cannabis is an ancient plant medicine and has tons of positive benefits—and even though, intellectually, we know way better than to beat ourselves up for our love of pot—it can be hard to keep the positive vibes in the forefront of our minds every time we consume. Regardless of age, gender, or location, one sentiment relayed by some cannabis users is a sense of guilt and shame—which makes sense since historically we’ve all been inundated with judgements and stigmas around the plant.

Call it the lingering dredges of the War on Drugs/D.A.R.E.-era stereotypes, but sometimes the historic “only lazy losers and delinquents smoke weed” refrain creeps in when we least expect it. And that goes for seasoned weed smokers, medicinal users, occasional dabblers, and first-time experimenters alike. Societal indoctrination dies hard.

Call it the lingering dredges of the War on Drugs/D.A.R.E.-era stereotypes, but sometimes the historic “only lazy losers and delinquents smoke weed” refrain creeps in when we least expect it.

But because it’s super important to always remember set and setting when we consume anything, we certainly don’t want any negativity running through our minds. And, as long as we’re consuming conscientiously and responsibly (and doing our parts to fix the fact that there are a lot of people still in prison for weed), there is no reason to feel bad about exploring nature’s magical plant gifts. So how do we combat deeply-rooted guilt and shame—even when it is totally self-inflicted?

One trick that has worked well for me: using a mantra. Here are three tried-and-true ones to steal the next time you find yourself going down an unnecessary shame spiral—just hold them in your mind anytime you hear that judge-y inner critic sneaking in and repeat after me:

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Mantra: Cannabis is Medicine for Me

When it comes to dismantling self-administered guilt, it can be helpful to start by reminding yourself that cannabis is a natural medicine that has been used for thousands of years—a lot longer than modern-day Big Pharma.

“From the moment I first tried cannabis, I knew it was about more than just getting high because, much to my surprise, it actually helped me sleep," says Olivia Alexander, the founder and CEO of Kush Queen, who uses cannabis on a daily basis to help treat both Bipolar disorder and chronic depression. “It wasn’t until much later in life that I came to understand cannabis was a medicine that could replace pharmaceuticals.” 

Transitioning from pharmaceuticals to cannabis was a pivotal moment in Olivia’s life and overall wellness—and it started with a pretty intense experience: “I lost an unplanned pregnancy because of the pharmaceutical drugs I was taking to treat my Bipolar disorder. I remember being told, Don’t get pregnant on these drugs,’ but I didn’t fully grasp what the doctors were saying to me at the time; I didn’t understand how detrimental the chemicals were to my body until I became pregnant. The ensuing loss was a turning point for me: I stopped using pharmaceuticals and I started using just cannabis for medicine.”

In moments of guilt, I remind myself of these stories—and my own personal experience: Like the horrible anxiety medications and side effects I experienced before turning to cannabis.

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Mantra: I Know My Body and I Know What It Needs

It’s a tale as old as time—each person’s tolerance levels are different, and therefore, the amount of THC each individuals can tolerate is different. What would frazzle one might mellow out another, so it’s important to focus on your own response to the plant. As cannabis enters the mass market, many experts have deemed frequent and daytime consumption beneficial and acceptable when it’s being micro-dosed. But micro-dosing doesn’t work for everyone; in fact, precise dosing in general doesn’t always work for everyone.

Although Olivia admits to tracking her dosage, she also notes that it’s not her only North Star. “I have noticed that sometimes, on paper, it appears I have had a ton of cannabis—100mg-plus of THC a day. But I’ve found that a technical approach is not always accurate for me, so I try not to focus on anything other than how I feel. Our endocannabinoid system is much more complex than people understand. I find my hormones can affect my dose and sometimes I need far less or far more than before... Some days I need more and other days I need less—it’s all ok.”

When speaking to some of my older family about my cannabis consumption, there is often a concern about the quantity. I come from a cannabis-friendly home, but even with parents who partake, there’s sometimes a level of a judgement imposed on the amount I consume. While I make a point to hear their concerns, I have to remind myself that I know my own body and my mind. I know that regardless of what someone else might think, smoking throughout the day actually doesn’t leave me incapacitated. Rather, it keeps the edge of my anxiety at bay—so much so, that I’m amply more productive during work hours.

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Mantra: I am Not______; I am Successful

If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to internalize all of the stereotypes you heard about cannabis growing up. For me, the word that’s most pertinent is “lazy,” but it can be different for everyone. Whatever the word is, remind yourself you are not that simply because you smoke. 

Remember that generalizations stem from a very narrow view of a person’s broader lifestyle and hidden, physiological response to the plant. And a lot of the stereotypes began as totally racist propaganda in the first place. “Sure, there are some people who get tired when they consume cannabis. But, the endocannabinoid system is not one size fits all. There are a myriad of incredibly successful people who consume cannabis every single day, from all walks of life, with no negative effect,” says Olivia. “Personally, I have no issue balancing daily consumption with a fast-paced, successful business and personal life.”

Hannah is a freelance writer based in New York City. She loves all things wellness and beauty, and in her free time enjoys a power nap, a cup of tea, and a perfectly packed bowl. Her work has been published on Fashionista, The Chill Times, Daily Front Row, and Complex.