Don’t be a Stereotype

Originally published in The Leither Magazine

Stereotypes abound in every sphere of life. Often a source of humour, they are indicative of our innate desire to understand and categorise information in the world around us. Some stereotypes are fairly benign, funny even. Many jokes rely on predictable tropes, some of which have little basis in reality.

What comes to mind when I say “wine drinker”? I’ll bet it’s very different to what you imagine when I say “craft beer connoisseur”. What does your choice of coffee say about you? What kind of person drives a sports car? Is there such thing as a typical Leither?

What type of people use cannabis? The C word may conjure the image of a smoky room full of slouching ne’erdowells, giggling in husky tones and snacking on fluorescent orange junk food. We’ve all seen people juggling in the park, is that a typical cannabis user? What about jazz composers? I’ve heard that all the greats were fond of a left-handed cigarette. Surely by now we’ve all seen sick people in the news, adults and children, using cannabis. But what about a doctor using cannabis? Or a nurse? Even teachers? Do they use cannabis?

The short answer is Yes. I’ve met members of all the afore mentioned professions who have used cannabis in the past, or currently use it. I’ve met full-time carers, political aides, and lawyers who use cannabis. I’ve served at least one psychiatrist, and more than my fair share of manual labourers, drivers and students. I can guarantee that you’ve eaten a meal cooked by someone under the influence of cannabis, and it probably tasted great.

I work in the emerging legal cannabis industry selling CBD food supplements in my shop on great junction street. I’ve met thousands of cannabis users, some of whom use legal products and as many who still access their cannabis on the black market. I’ve noticed that there are probably more women than men interested in using cannabis for their health, and the majority of my customers are over the age of 40, but we serve people of all age groups, all backgrounds and with more health conditions than I have room to list. Cannabis is becoming a normal part of everyday life for more and more people, and it is nothing short of good news for all of us.

The stereotype of the modern cannabis user urgently needs to change, because our understanding of the substance has advanced beyond the slogans and propaganda of yesteryear. No longer resigned to Schedule 1 of the controlled substances act, in 2018 the Home Office conceded that cannabis does in fact have medical utility. First and foremost cannabis is a health product, and we should talk about it as such. It seems unfair to have a stereotype at all; if people from all walks of life use cannabis, be it for health or pleasure or both, it seems redundant to rely on 2-dimensional jokes and notions inspired by pop-culture, here-say and tabloid sensationalism.

For all the good that detailed investigation of cannabis does, I think it is more valuable to take a step back and realise that there aren’t a mere handful of conditions that can benefit from it, nor is there one subset of society that cannabis is best suited to. The average cannabis user is your neighbour, your friend, maybe even your hairdresser. We all have an endocannabinoid system; hard-wired into our nerves and tissues there exists a network of highly specialised receptors that use cannabinoids to manage a wide variety of bodily and cognitive functions. Some people feel better when they add cannabinoids like CBD to their diet, even if those cannabinoids don’t get them high.

Whether people are using cannabis for fun or functionality is a false dichotomy; I would wager most cannabis users tick both boxes. Cannabis is not a simple product, there is more nuance and subtlety than you might expect. Every person responds differently to different types of cannabis products, and the person best suited to find what works for you, is YOU.

If Scotland’s cannabis market follows global trends, we will see more older people using cannabis products to manage their health. We will see alcohol sales drop as people switch to the benevolent cannabis bud as their night-cap. We will see crime rates fall as more and more people turn to legal providers of quality assured cannabis. We will see a rise in the number of happy, healthy people using a 65 million year old plant to better their quality of life. Let’s create some new, positive stereotypes; the typical productive stoner, always showing up on time and contributing to society through their work and art.

Leith already has a plethora of shops selling cannabis related products, and as one Dutch visitor in the shop told me, it’s more common to smell weed in Edinburgh than in the Netherlands. In a regulated cannabis market, customers would be able to choose their cannabis products based on what best suits them, and do so without fear of being judged.

It’s time to leave prejudice and old stereotypes behind and start having an adult conversation about cannabis in our community. My business is a social enterprise, because I believe that cannabis can add value to individuals and communities. We’re here to say that cannabis is OK. It’s OK to talk about it and it’s OK to ask questions and be curious. It’s OK to use cannabis too, but do it consciously; be aware of what you take and why. Don’t become another stereotype.

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