Growing up in a small town I had a lot of notions drilled into me about what “good people” did. Good people got good grades and went to college. Good people donated their time to charity and helped their neighbor. Good people voted Republican. Good people attended church dutifully dressed in their Sunday best each weekend. Above all else, good people had their beer or glass of wine each night, but they most certainly did not consume that wacky tobacco enjoyed by (gasp!) hippies and losers. Good people “just said no” and graduated from DARE with enthusiasm. Clearly some of my childhood values were more valuable than other parts, but all of it led to who I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Outside of a single experience trying cannabis in my young teens with my childhood best friend, I did not begin regularly consuming cannabis until I had given birth to two children, was married, and was 30 years old. By that time I had won several fast growth awards as an entrepreneur, owned real estate, had a retirement plan, and was considered a role model by many. All I had to do to know how well received my cannabis use would be received would be to watch any TV show or Hollywood movie. Based on how the media portrays cannabis consumers, I would be viewed as a lazy, unambitious, silly stoner or (even worse!) a dirty hippy who would end up burning patchouli and driving a VW van.
I was headed home during rush hour one evening when it happened. The car in front of me crashed into the car in front of them and I slammed on the breaks. All I remember is the airbag and windshield wipers going off. In the chaos of the automobile accident I don’t remember feeling any pain. I just remember thinking about what a hassle it would be and what a burden this was going to be in my busy life. The wall of stiffness and pain didn’t hit me until the next morning when I was able to assess the damage to my body. The black and purple bruises from the seat belt, the sharpness in my neck, and the general ache throbbing in my back. That’s what happens when a body in motion at 45MPH comes to a sudden and violent stop. The physician did what physicians do: prescribed muscle relaxants, opioids for the pain, and a variety of other pills I could take. Something to wake up, something to sleep, there was a bottle for every symptom I could have and none addressed my general feeling of being unwell. My mornings were a fog. The mental acuity and high energy I am known for faded.
Within a week of pill popping I felt like an empty shadow of my former self. Looking back, it was the closest I ever came to living up to the stereotype of “stoners” and I hadn’t even had a puff.
“Why don’t you just smoke a joint before you go to bed?” said a friend. Not only was cannabis not something that I had considered, it was something I equated with people who were not like me. Workaholics don’t smoke cannabis. Cheerleaders do not get “high” on cannabis. Mothers are not lighting up joints and blunts. Or were they?
In short order I was sitting there, in a nondescript medical office in a strip mall waiting my turn in a waiting room filled with sick people. Not one was under 60 and several were Veterans who reminded me of my Grandfathers. They were in wheelchairs, using walkers, or bald from cancer treatments. I felt like I was doing something illicit just by being there. Eventually, my name was called and the physician reviewed my medical records. Amidst the X Rays, scans and auto accident records, he resolved that medical marijuana could assist me with the chronic pain I was suffering with on a daily basis. Fast forward to a few weeks later and there I was, with my fresh new Medical Marijuana card and determined to challenge every stereotype I’d grown up with. Thanks to a saint-like patient consultant, I learned more in that first visit than I ever imagined about the science of cannabis. Most importantly, I walked away feeling like someone finally cared about my wellness. This wasn’t just a pill popping solution, but it was encouragement to test and try what would work for me. I finally found the partner in wellness that I so desperately needed and it was the catalyst for an entire career shift for me.
Today I am a mother, an award-winning fast growth entrepreneur, enthusiastic community volunteer, and cannabis advocate. Of all of those “titles” it is cannabis advocate that holds a place close to my heart. As someone who spent 30 years preaching against all drug use I appreciate why prohibitionists feel the way they do. When you know better you can do better. Screaming about the benefits of cannabis isn’t how you win someone over. It’s living by example that transforms hearts and minds. It is in every achievement as an entrepreneur where I set a new example. It is in every interaction with my beautifully behaved little girls where the sales girl is surprised to hear I work in the cannabis industry that she begins to question her own bias. It is with every successful cannabis industry event that exceeds expectations that we inch ever closer to normalization. Today I am redefining good people, not just for myself, but for the world.