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Silencing the Stigma of Medical Marijuana Use

As forward as the momentum of medical marijuana is moving across Canada and the US, many legal medical marijuana card holding citizens are finding that discrimination hasn’t quite yet died. Thanks to years of negative propaganda against marijuana, there’s a lot of stereotypes that surround those who use it medically or otherwise.

Although those of us that use medical marijuana know that we’re not all a bunch of burned-out hippies too stoned to get off the couch and do anything with our lives, there are still a bunch of people that would like to argue otherwise. The thing is, these stereotypes don’t really apply anymore (if they ever did at all) and those using medical marijuana aren’t a bunch of lazy, tie-dye clad kids blazing it up at 4:20.

The modern medical marijuana patient is…well, everyone. You can bet your best friend’s grandma with terminal cancer is taking some form of medical cannabis. And the kid down the street not suffering from life threatening seizures anymore? Yep, his parents are more than likely giving him a CBD oil to stop these seizures in their tracks.

With marijuana legalized for medical use in Canada and the US, with talks of Canada soon following in the footsteps of US states like Colorado and Washington where weed is legal for both medical and recreational use, many people have come out of the “marijuana closet” and now admit freely to using this once taboo substance. From celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Justine Timberlake to former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the stigma of marijuana use is slowing getting shut down. Even Martha Stewart says “of course” she knows how to roll a joint.

Despite the outspoken successful speaking out for marijuana use, there are still those that are not so sure. The “gateway drug” theory is still alive and well in some circles and while new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands behind full-blown legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, some of those running in the US elections are singing a different song.

Take presidential candidate and governor of the state of New Jersey, Chris Christie for instance. He promised recently that if in fact he is elected to serve as President of the United States of America, he will crack down on marijuana sales. A firm supporter of the “gateway” drug argument, he seems to be forgetting that his state was one of the first to legalize medical marijuana.

So you see, even though medical marijuana continues to move forward with unprecedented momentum, the stereotypes behind it sometimes stand still. If you’re someone who suffers from chronic pain, people are more likely to accept you taking oxycodone or hydrocodone (both opioids) and both of which are known to be extremely addicting and with a host of negative side effects. So prevalent is prescription medication use that almost 2 million Americans live with prescription opioid abuse or dependency. In 2013, over 100 Americans died each day from prescription overdose.

It’s shocking that many people still hold strong to the stigma attached to marijuana, although an overdose has never been reported and addiction to marijuana simply doesn’t exist. You can’t die from taking too much medical marijuana, but can from prescription medication. What’s worse is that many people that begin with opioid addiction often move onto heroin as it’s much cheaper and works much better with smaller doses to relieve pain than prescription pills.

And there is still discrimination against medical marijuana? We live amongst societies that have a twisted view of what is real and what is not. Until the stigma of medical marijuana use is silenced we’ll continue to see discrimination against employees from employers, against parents by their peers, and many other medical marijuana patients that don’t even come close to the “stoner stereotype” whatsoever.

Take Gaston Myron for instance, Alberta husband and father of three young girls who was recently diagnosed with an invasive lung tumour. Given only 6-18 months to live, he found the cancer treatment Iressa shrunk the tumor just fine, but was left in debilitating pain. After taking up to 400mg of ibuprofen every morning just to deal with the pain, he eventually turned to medical marijuana to see if that couldn’t help instead. While help it did indeed, it still seems that many people, despite the legality of medical marijuana in Canada, still want to see him as a stoner. And this is directed towards a man that has never used marijuana in the past.

There are those stepping in to silence the stigma however. From the notable successful celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Cameron Diaz to other influences like America’s Drug Policy Alliance, there are those trying to stop the unnecessary discrimination. The DPA recently released a set of stock photos for the use of the medical (and recreational) marijuana news media. These pictures show realistic images of “normal” people using marijuana that definitely don’t fit the stoner stereotype.

Medical marijuana has taken great strides and the stigma attached to its use is beginning to simmer down. Hopefully as more and more states in the US legalize medical marijuana and Canada goes full-blown legal across the board, the stereotypes will cease and marijuana will once regain the respect it so vehemently deserves.

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