Going to Pot: A conversation about the cannabis stigma

The Cannabis Stigma

For months now I have been encouraging my mother to get over the cannabis stigma and develop a pot habit. This means I’ve had several surreal conversations with her, suggesting that she visit a local marijuana store just to see what they have to offer.

Wait. I should probably back up a little bit.

My mother, a southern woman who embodies the word “traditional,” has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for decades. Now in her 60s and diagnosed in her 30s, she has tried almost every pharmaceutical option out there. From oral medication to injections, infusions to fasts and cleanses, she has been open to just about everything that might ease the pain and keep her mobile.

Except cannabis.

I get it. I mean, my sister and I often compare her to Martha Stewart (although even Martha sounds like she might indulge a little). So just uttering the word “marijuana” causes my mother to blush and change the subject. And, being raised by such traditional parents at the height of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign…I was never a recreational user myself.

But times, they are a-changing – and so is the stigma surrounding cannabis for its health properties. With the slow legalization of marijuana and more studies than ever emerging that prove the benefits of its use for pain, it was something I thought we should at least look into.

And when she wouldn’t budge on the subject, I finally did it for her.

If you know what’s good for you….

I was having dinner with a friend, whose mother also happens to be MY mother’s best friend, when we started discussing how our parents were doing.

“My mother has such horrible back pain right now she can barely stand up,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “My mom just switched doctors and they’re trying a new arthritis treatment. But I can tell she hurts.”

It was at that moment that she and I decided to take charge. If they were too embarrassed to go to a distributor, then we would. We drove to the local shop, went in, and asked for assistance.

This was an eye-opener. It was kind of like walking into a Walgreens or something. I guess I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe a Rastafarian greeting us at the door with a sleepy smile? – but what I found was a group of professionals, well-educated in both recreational and medicinal use. For the first time, I found out that what is used in the pain products we were looking for didn’t even contain the THC that gets you high. They do, however, contain other properties that help you function, either in place of or in tandem with pharmaceuticals.

We left that day, armed with pamphlets for our parents, which my mother quickly stashed away when I handed them to her. She didn’t mention it again for months.

And then something interesting happened.

The Shift

“What are you up to tomorrow?” I asked my parents as we were sitting on my back porch.

My mother glanced sideways at my 15-year-old daughter and leaned over and whispered to me, “Your father is taking me to the pot store.”

“Really?” I asked, somewhat shocked at this turn of events. “What brought this about?”

It turns out that her rheumatologist suggested that she might want to investigate cannabis lotion for pain and see what it might do for the flexibility in her hands. As an arthritis patient, losing any mobility is a constant fear because once it’s gone, it’s almost impossible to get back.

“Now, Haley,” my mother said to my daughter. “Don’t you go telling everyone that your grandmother is going to buy marijuana.”

“Oh, Nana,” my daughter said, rolling her eyes. “I go to a public school.”

It was at that moment I realized that I was actually watching a generational shift. Most people in my parents’ social circles would be so embarrassed to admit that they use marijuana for anything, medicinal or otherwise; my generation is kind of the bridge. After all, the generation of kids that we’re raising now is growing up in a world where this product can be purchased at the store down the street of our suburban home.

And how did it turn out?

My mother did go to the pot store and listened to the expert there. She not only walked away with samples to try for her hands, but also a possible sleep aid (she’s suffered from insomnia her entire life). When I asked her how she was feeling a few days later, she admitted that she wasn’t immediately waking up in the morning and diving for her pain medication as she usually does.

However, I knew we had turned a corner when she said, “I told a few of my friends they should think about trying it.”

You have no idea how hard it was not to say, “I told you so.”

Catherine TiddCatherine Tidd is an author and marketing consultant. Her marketing work with right:ratio has opened her eyes to the benefits of CBD as it helps people and pets with issues such as anxiety, cancer, and pain. As she writes this piece, her mother is heading back to the shop to purchase her next round of CBD products to help with the arthritis and insomnia she has suffered from for decades.