Crushing the stereotype

by Kayla Johnson

There’s been no shortage of stigmas and stereotypes attached to cannabis culture over the years. Especially within the last three decades.  We’ve had TV promoting the unsuccessful and often unreliable ‘stoner’ friend stereotypes, the dire warnings of the government and the D.A.R.E. program about the dangers and warnings of the woe that will befall all those who consume it. Cannabis culture has been often expressed by colorful, psychedelic images, junk food, and tie dye clothes, with a general consensus that those who partake are missing out on their lives, and even the attitude that any who support it are criminals.

Cannabis culture isn’t cut and dry. It has its toxic undercurrents, in some ways fueled in part by these lingering stereotypes. As with many industries, there’s dishonesty on the part of some, while others remained trapped by their negative mindsets. As we all venture down this road of legalization, there’s no doubt that there’ll be setbacks.  The opposition to legalization remains unwavering, however, the cannabis culture is slowly working to grow and drown out the toxicity. There are two things that are drastically needed to be pushed onward by the new freedoms that come with either medical or recreational legalization: hope and reality.

Here in the the Sooner state, we are a prime example of this. As of February 25, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority had approved 54,253 patient applications. In just under eight months, nearly 55,000 people applied and were approved for their license. That’s 54,253 people who are able to access cannabis as their medicine. 54,253 people that have more hope now than they did eight months ago that they’ll be able to live with less pain, with a better way to help manage their depression, or their stress. Hope is a powerful thing, and it can be the fuel people need to do more with their life. Hope reminds people how to give back to their community, and for many Oklahomans, those things collide. Dispensaries, health clinics, farms, and processors are popping up across the state in unprecedented numbers. In Tulsa alone, there are now more medical marijuana dispensary licenses in the city limits than there are Quiktrip or Starbucks. While it’s likely that not all businesses will remain, there is certainly no shortage of business from the 54,253 patients, and counting. There are high hopes for the strength of the market once it begins to fully establish itself, and Oklahoma could be facing it’s own gold rush, in green buds.

There’s something more important happening than just the potential for income and sales. Nearly every week, in more than one town, there are free patient drives happening. People are donating to cover recommendations and fees for strangers they’ve never even met. People are pitching in to help businesses get ready to open, or to recover, when theft has occurred. They are educating each other. They are sharing how to grow, harvest, and cure your own cannabis. People are finally able to talk openly, and freely about what works and what doesn’t. More often than not, people fear what they can’t understand. By making it possible to bring cannabis and the work it takes to grow it into the light, it’s now possible to share the information more openly than ever before. Rather than selling information there has been a massive push of free classes and information in the state. Oklahomans have been working hard to make this bill not just a reality, but a reality for anyone who needs it.

That reality has been brought to light, and for most people this has been a freeing experience. Reality allows cannabis patients to step into the light, with their heads held high. The reality of cannabis culture is far different than many have been led to believe, no thanks in part due to sitcoms, who often painted the ‘stoner’ buddy as unreliable, and even dishonest. Reality is revealing that cannabis patients aren’t just punchlines on TV, or unpleasant stereotypes in the flesh.

They’re your neighbor.

Your daughter.

Your best friend.

The cook at your favorite restaurant.

The teen who struggles with seizures.

The veteran who now teaches at your child’s school.

They’re nurses, lawyers, writers, and welders. They’re bankers, and business owners, and florists. They’re gamers, and runners. They’re farmers, and road workers and students. They’re intelligent, they’re sharp, they’re funny, they’re kind. Some have made mistakes and are trying to move forward in life. Others aren’t. Some go to church on Sundays, some go fishing, some snuggle their children on the couch. Just like anyone else. Just like you.

Cannabis culture is a lot of things now, and there’s a lot it isn’t anymore. It’s what we make it now. The next step depends on how we continue to move forward and continue to grow what’s been established here so far. Missteps and setbacks are bound to happen. Let the spirit of giving that’s blossomed here in the state continue to expand. In other words, move forward in this new, hope-filled green world we’re building, with a firm grasp of reality in one hand, and a joint in the other.

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