While on vacation in California recently, I smoked weed in front of my mom for the first time.
Scratch that. I didn’t smoke weed in front of her. What I actually did was whip out a joint and tell her I was going to smoke it in her bathroom, where she regularly smokes her cigarettes to keep her apartment from smelling like tobacco. So I was actually trying to be respectful by hotboxing her bathroom.
When she saw the joint, she made that face mothers make right before they say, “What you not gon’ do … ” But my mother didn’t say anything. She just shook her head and walked away.
Now, my mom kinda suspected that I was a weed smoker. But when California finally legalized recreational marijuana—or adult use of marijuana, which some pro-cannabis activists prefer because, honestly, no one ever says “recreational alcohol” or “recreational cigarettes” about the two legal vices enjoyed and consumed by grown-ass people—I thought it was time to clear the air, so to speak, and make it plain that I do enjoy legal weed, just as she enjoys her legal cigarettes.
I mention this story because it appears that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might be back on that bullshit about cracking down on marijuana. On Friday he met with a group of anti-legalization activists behind closed doors, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t swapping Christmas-cookie recipes.
As far as we know, Sessions has never met with pro-pot activists during his first year in office. And last week, a video emerged showing Sessions in full asshole mode mocking a Department of Justice intern about her stance on marijuana while making a few misleading statements of his own (more on that later).
Sessions, who’s been pretty wishy-washy about marijuana policy as attorney general, has famously said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” But that statement defies logic when you consider that 29 states have legalized medical marijuana and seven states plus Washington, D.C., have co-signed recreational weed. Maybe he doesn’t know any good people, which isn’t hard to believe, to be honest.
But Sessions aside, there is still a pretty strong social stigma around people who use weed. The image of the stoner stuck on a couch eating Cheetos is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of a weed smoker, which is why it’s time for the good, weed-smoking people of America to let it be known that they happily puff-puff-pass while still managing to contribute to society.
Evidence has shown that weed is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, yet the federal government classifies it as a Schedule I drug, the highest classification, which puts marijuana on par with heroin. Our government thinks weed is more dangerous than Schedule II drugs cocaine and crystal meth, which is fucking bananas.
Sessions once even claimed that marijuana was “only less awful than heroin,” which is utter horseshit when you consider that the number of overdoses from opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers skyrocketed in 2016. (Sessions just recently conceded that weed isn’t as bad as heroin. Gee, thanks, little buddy!)
You know how many people have died from a marijuana overdose in the history of marijuana? Zero.
A recent study even suggested that opiate-related deaths went down after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, and some experts believe that cannabis could actually help ease the abuse of opioids, which account for 63 percent of all drug-related deaths.
Speaking of opioids, in that video with the intern, Sessions claimed that last year was the first time that drugs rather than alcohol caused more fatal car accidents. He’s basically correct on that point (the year was actually 2015), except the issue is more nuanced than that.
Since police still don’t have a reliable DUI test for weed (officers are mainly just judging behavior to determine if a driver is high), it’s difficult to know what role, if any, weed may have played in an accident, especially since marijuana stays in your system awhile after actual use. But what Sessions failed to mention is that there’s also been a huge spike in prescription-opioid-related fatal car crashes (however, the same rule about no reliable DUI test also applies to opioids).
Sessions also asked that intern to check with the American Medical Association about the dangers of marijuana. Again, while Sessions is right that the AMA says marijuana is a dangerous drug and recreational weed should not be legalized, he didn’t mention that the organization has also called for more research on both the positive and negative effects of cannabis. Because legalization is moving way faster than research, rescheduling the drug to open up scientific study makes even more sense from a public health point of view.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that black and brown people are still getting arrested at higher rates for marijuana possession, even in states with legal weed, so coming out wholeheartedly as a weed smoker still carries some real-life consequences (the prohibition of weed has always been primarily about race).
But really, the best way to destroy the stereotypical image of a pothead is to replace it with an image that looks more like you and me. If you agree, use the hashtag #ISmokeWeed. Pass it around!