While public perceptions are shifting around the use of cannabis to treat a growing list of conditions, many still understand cannabis through the lens of stigma, misinformation and its history of criminalisation. You might find that your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members have different opinions about your medicinal cannabis use than your friends and your healthcare providers do.
If you're dealing with a loved one who doesn't support your medicinal cannabis use and it's affecting your relationship or wellbeing, here's are five things you can do:
1. Start with a conversation.
Change begins one person at a time, so why not start with a one-on-one conversation? You can ask your loved one to share what they know about medicinal cannabis and try to get them to open up to you about how they formed their strong opinions on cannabis use. Try to come to the conversation with an open mind and a will to understand your loved one’s experiences, and ask that they try and do the same for you. You might like to start by opening up about your health and medical condition and how it has been impacting your life and wellbeing prior to trying medicinal cannabis.
2. Try to understand their point of view
Perhaps your loved one grew up in a time where cannabis was demonised, or maybe they knew someone who had an unhealthy relationship with recreational drugs. It’s possible they’ve even tried cannabis recreationally themselves and had a bad experience! Whatever their background with cannabis is, try to understand where they're coming from without judging their beliefs or experiences. This will help you understand where to start with educating your loved one on the benefits and history of medicinal cannabis and debunking any misinformation they have come to rely on.
3. Back yourself with research
There are a wide range of studies, statistics and resources exploring the history, safety, benefits and medicinal uses of cannabis today and throughout human history. If you're going to try and educate your loved one and clear up misinformation, try to back yourself with the right research and resources to help you speak from a place of understanding.
Some reputable places to source your medicinal cannabis information from are peer-reviewed medical journals, university departments or initiatives dedicated to researching cannabinoid therapies, peer-reviewed articles about cannabis clinical trials and any reputable platform or initiative dedicated to exploring the benefits and uses of medicinal cannabis (always check any references they’ve provided to ensure they’re coming from reputable sources).
You might like to talk about how cannabis has been used as a medicine throughout human history, or how many countries have legalised cannabis as a medicine today. You can point to studies where cannabis has shown to be beneficial in treating or mitigating the symptoms of certain conditions, such as your own condition or even a condition your loved one suffers from, if you feel comfortable.
You might want to share the studies and information you come across with your loved one for them to look at on their own time so they can read and digest the information when they’re ready.
4. Speak from experience
If you feel comfortable talking about your medicinal cannabis use, sharing how your medicinal cannabis treatment has helped you in managing or healing your condition can help your loved one understand your cannabis use on a personal level. You might talk about positive changes you've seen, how the treatments compare with other conventional treatments you've tried and how they've impacted your life overall.
If, for example, your medical cannabis treatment has helped improve your relationships with others by lessening the symptoms of anxiety or chronic pain, then you might talk about how medical cannabis has allowed you to spend more time or improved the time you spend with your loved ones, family and friends. You might talk about how it’s allowed you to do better at work, participate in activities or any other benefit your treatment has had on your symptoms and lifestyle. You may also like to talk about how other treatments you’ve tried were less effective or produced adverse side effects that were worse than those you’ve experienced with medical cannabis.
Anything you can share that will challenge your loved one’s ideas about how cannabis affects users will help break down any stigmas they’ve learned to associate with cannabis and help them understand your decision.
5. Trust yourself and your experience
We can’t always change the minds of people with strongly-rooted beliefs. And that’s okay. How you choose to look after your health, as long as it is safe and legal, is entirely your decision. If you feel you’ve done all you can to change your loved one’s mind and you still haven’t seen eye to eye, trust that you and your doctor know what’s best for your health, and you don’t need to involve anyone who isn’t your healthcare provider, legal carer or guardian (if you are underage) in your healthcare decisions.
Even if your loved one hasn’t come around to the idea of your medical cannabis use right away, you may have made more progress than you think in shifting their beliefs. As time goes by and these treatments become more mainstream and readily available, you may find your loved one becoming more and more open to the idea of your medical cannabis use. In the meantime, try to learn to agree to disagree and remember there is a large community of patients, practitioners, scientists, pharmacists, growers, researchers and healthcare providers who can advocate for the uses and benefits of medical cannabis in treating a wide range of conditions.
Let’s break down the medicinal cannabis stigma, one conversation at a time.