This holiday season, just like any other, means the gathering of family and friends and sometimes the discussion – or avoidance – of certain topics. Politics and religion may or may not be off the table, but what about cannabis? This holiday season, will you be discussing marijuana use with your family?
Who’s in the cannabis closet?
According to a recent study, 75% of you won’t be discussing marijuana use with your family and friends this holiday, or any time soon. The study polled 1,050 Americans, 379 of which admitted to smoking marijuana. Out of those 379 people, 73% responded that they feel the need to hide their use from their friends, family, or coworkers. So even if people are lighting up more than the Christmas tree this holiday, chances are, many of them will be doing it covertly.
The study also found interesting behavior when it came to married couples who used marijuana. They discovered that an astounding 30% of marijuana users hide their use from their spouses. While 17% of women said they hide their use from their spouses, 23% of men responded that they prefer to keep it a secret. Founder of NORML, Keith Stroup, likened the white lies to couples who will take a drink or two every now and then and hide it from their significant others to avoid interpersonal problems at home. This may also be true of the holiday season. Many users might want to relax with marijuana, but would prefer to avoid potential family – and spousal – disapproval.
Interestingly, money also seems to play an integral role in whether or not marijuana users choose to divulge their habit. The study found that . While only 7.5% of people who brought in up to $25,000 per year hid their use, a whopping 34% used marijuana surreptitiously in households that made over $75,000. People with higher income may feel more pressure to keep up appearances, even within their own homes, leading them to hide their habit more than people who bring in less income.
But, with age comes wisdom – and candidness. Only six to seven percent of respondents over the age of 45 said that they hid their use from their partners. This fact can be accounted for with the changes that middle and elder age bring. After all, the kids have flown the coop and retirement has arrived. There is no longer the pressure to hide marijuana use from friends or children, so there is less to lose.
Why do people hide marijuana use?
But those aged 25 – 44 have more reason to hide their marijuana habit, even with the growing support of cannabis in the United States. One major reason is the conflicting federal and state laws in the US regarding cannabis.
Cannabis is still federally illegal, which means that in cases between state and federal law, things can get a little murky. In states where marijuana is legal, either recreationally or medicinally, you are protected against state drug laws, but not federal drug laws.
Most states who have legalized marijuana make it clear that legalization does not affect employer laws. This means that even if you live in a state where marijuana is legal AND have a medical marijuana license, you could still lose your job due to marijuana use.
Perhaps one of the most frightening aspects of revealing marijuana use has to do with children. In some cases, custody trials can hinge on marijuana use allegations. Drug policy advocate and activist Sahra Kant mentions that “cannabis use of any kind has resulted in forced cessation of medicine, random and regular drug testing, coerced drug rehabilitation programs, limited or discontinued visitation time for the non-custodial parent or only supervised visitation, the non-using parent granted sole custody, and reports to Child Protective Services (CPS) by family court.”
Even more frightening for parent marijuana users is the threat of having their children taken away from them by Child Protective Services. Being open about marijuana use leaves parents vulnerable to friends, neighbors, fellow parents, strangers, or family members who might report them. There are also mandated reporters – healthcare, childcare/education, religious, and social system professionals that may come into contact with children during the course of their workday. These professionals are mandated to report suspected child abuse and may be penalized if they fail to do so.
Although CPS and the courts that side with them are beginning to be criticized for outdated rulings, some cases do still exist that would give any parent nightmares, making it not such a surprise that many parents choose to hide their marijuana use.
While the threat of losing your job or your children is frightening enough, sometimes the stigma alone is enough to deter marijuana users from coming out. A study in 2009 revealed that the stigma associated with cannabis use often resulted in patients foregoing medical marijuana treatment for fear of being stigmatized. Patients sometimes waited months or even years before seeking a medical marijuana prescription, allowing symptoms to worsen.
Coming out of the cannabis closet this holiday season:
The holiday season can be a stressful time. Many people turn to the less legally-dubious alcohol to relieve the stress of holiday shopping, hosting family, or traveling. However, as a safer, healthier, non-hangover-inducing, alternative to relieving holiday anxiety.
If you haven’t had the marijuana talk with your family yet, you may be attempting to light up in the sleeting snow to avoid being noticed. However, hiding your use might be causing you stress as well.
If you feel like coming out of the cannabis closet, try pulling one person aside first and giving them the low down. This could be a parent, a sibling, or a friend, as long as it’s someone you trust will understand and will listen without judgment. Creating an ally will make you feel more comfortable, and may help you talk to others about your marijuana use in the future.