With the holiday season upon us, many of us red-eyed connoisseurs of cannabis will be flying home to families that perhaps don’t share the same views on pot that we do. In years past you may have snuck a few joints into your checked-bag (or paid double from a high school buddy still slinging dime-bags in your hometown) and secretly toked in your childhood bedroom, using the core of a toilet paper roll stuffed with dryer sheets to mask the smell.
But isn’t this getting a bit old? After all, you’re an adult now, and this is the legalized era: Getting high is no longer anything to be ashamed of.
Isn’t it about time you came out to your parents as a pot smoker?
While stoner rights may not be as urgent or personal as LGBT rights, the social dynamics are very similar. Coming out to your friends and family as a pot smoker — like coming out as gay — not only furthers social acceptance of the practice, but it will help you become a more relaxed, more authentic human being around your loved ones.
Easier said than done, right? For some people, admitting to their parents that they smoke weed is as terrifying and untenable as admitting they’ve changed religions, political affiliations or, again, stated a preference for a different sexual partner or gender identity. And you may think that your parents will be just as rigid on this issue as a homophobic bigot who delivers the red-faced “no son of mine …” speech when their courageous child confesses his or her true nature.
But you may be surprised.
Lately I’ve been hearing so many stories of parents who have been secret-smokers since the Carter administration but are finally coming out to their adult children about their lifestyle. They had been raised in a culture of fear and shame surrounding marijuana and were emboldened by the radically shifting attitudes their kids’ generation had about pot — namely, that Millennials have no difficulty placing words like “responsible,” “career-driven” and “pot smoker” within the same Venn diagram.
Like the “Half Baked” clip showing a father and son getting high in separate rooms, with the dad ironically “wondering how to bond with his son,” sometimes coming out to your parents as a pot smoker can be met with unexpected results. Last Christmas, a friend of mine admitted to his parents that he’d been smoking grass for years — only to hear that not only did his parents also enjoy getting high but that they had been the biggest pot dealers of their hometown since he was a kid.
Though you may not be as lucky as my friend. As we saw in this year’s election (which had the largest number of marijuana-reform ballot measures in history), there is still a very large and very loud contingent of Americans who see pot as a dangerous, addictive, crime-laden substance that inevitably leads to you becoming a homeless junkie who would step on your grandmother’s neck to get your next fix.
Situations like this require a bit of finesse. No matter how tempting it might be to turn into a Hulk of partisanship, angrily flexing your debate muscles, aiming to make your opponent look like an antiquated moron who blindly accepts any hysterical theories spoon-fed to them by the pundits of Fox News, it’s important to stay cool. Remember, these are your parents, and no matter how far you may have drifted from the beliefs they raised you with, they still deserve some respect. You’re never going to reach the promised-land of them accepting you as a pot smoker unless you employ a little diplomacy.
First off, you may not even have to be the one to broach the subject. If you live in one of the many states that have recently altered their marijuana laws and have a family that enjoys discussing current events, you can engage in a civil conversation about pot without personalizing it. Even if your parents are hot-headed prohibitionists, you can play the devil’s-advocate journalist by simply saying, “Well, the people who wanted it legalized are saying …” — and then you’re off, already discussing the issue with your family without having admitted to a thing, yet.
You can check out the Drug Policy Alliance’s 10 Facts About Marijuana page for some helpful background information to bring up during these discussions. And if you really want to bring a whole arsenal into your turkey-dinner debate, check out the anti-marijuana group Foundation For A Drug-Free World. This will help prepare you for the types of arguments that might come your way from your conservative parents. Cross-reference the claims made on their “The Truth About Marijuana” page with further research, so you’ll be prepared to make a counter-argument when your parents begin throwing around unsubstantiated claims about pot being a gateway drug that causes lung cancer.
When it comes time, just say it: “Mom, Dad, I’m a pothead.” The greatest piece of leverage you have in convincing them that this is nothing to be afraid of is you. The person speaking to them is the same respectable, coherent, fun-loving person they’ve always known. They may have an image in their head of marijuana users as unambitious, glassy-eyed losers who can’t hold a job and live off Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. But if they hear that you’ve been getting high for years and have yet to morph into a beastly creature straight out of “Naked Lunch,” this will go a long way toward changing their stereotyped image of pot smokers.
Though if your parents don’t see you as a respectable person, they may take the news of your cannabis smoking as ammunition against you. “So that’s why you’re such a fuck-up,” some parents might say. If this is the case, your problems go far beyond coming out as a stoner. If you have the type of mom or dad who don’t respect your opinions or choices as an adult, you might want to hold off on the whole marijuana conversation and begin discussing your relationship with them in general.
Assuming you and your family do have semi-decent communication skills, coming out to them as a cannabis user can act as a bridge of trust for everyone involved. It says to them, “You may not agree with my choices, but I respect you enough to be honest with you about who I am as an adult.” And this may lead to all kinds of opening up from both parties, sharing sides of yourself you previously thought the other person wasn’t ready to listen to.