The annual marijuana celebration "4/20" is this week on April 20. Unlike past years, this year sees the addition of several new states where the drug is now legal for adult recreational use. These include my home state of California where we're starting to see both the good - and bad of the policy shift. As someone who supports legalization, it's important to remember that just because something is legal, it is still a privilege. Don't abuse it! That includes knowing your physical and mental limits as well as when and where to enjoy it responsibly.
Even though I'm not a consumer of marijuana, the industry and community fascinates me. Throughout my formative years, the drug was pervasive and easy to get. It was said that only the, "bad kids" smoked dope. As I got older though, it quickly became evident that many successful people consumed marijuana in one form or another. Despite this, marijuana was still illegal so consumers had no idea where their supply actually came from or the quality of the product. Those who were unlucky to get caught then faced unfair prison time. This caused those who faced addiction problems to hide their habit instead of being able to openly seek care without fear of being exposed and ultimately arrested.
Today though, that fear no longer applies. While there's still somewhat of a social stigma, things are changing. Now, it's our responsibility as adults to show that our communities made the right decision by voting for legalization.
Know the Signs of Addictive Behavior and When There Might Be a Problem
While marijuana is generally perceived as "non addictive" there are certain behavior patterns that cause problems. The bottom line is that no matter what the substance is, if it interferes with your life, family, job etc. then it might be a problem. Similarly, if you feel that you "need" to consume vs it being something that you enjoy with your buddies then that could be a signal that you need help as well. Thankfully, there are great options out there for help with recovery. One example is Colorado drug rehab center, The Recovery Village. As a pioneer of marijuana liberalization, Colorado also suffers from the highest rate of drug use among teenagers and ranks third in the country for drug use in general. That makes it critical that we avoid mistakes that might have been made in that state.
Just like with alcohol, marijuana consumption can lead to negative consequences. As responsible adults though, it's our responsibility to make smart decisions and when to seek help.
Don't Be Stupid, Consume Responsibly
While marijuana laws differ from state to state, the principles for adult consumption are the same. If you are intoxicated aka "high" - don't drive or operate machinery. I advise my friends to use the same threshold that they use for alcohol. If you feel ANY effects - don't drive. While there's not a robust system of sobriety testing like there is for drunk driving, if you are impaired just don't do it.
Responsible consumption also means that you need to avoid public consumption and in mixed company. This is especially true in environments where you might be exposed to children. What you do in the privacy of your home or by yourself is your business though (check your local laws).
If You Choose to Consume, Support Regulated Dispensaries
In my experience, most dispensary employees legitimately care for the health and well being of their customers.
It's not a situation where there's a "drug dealer" who simply wants your money. In order to maintain their license they need to run their business properly and that includes explaining the different types of products available and what their effects are. I have friends in California who complain that with the passage of adult-use marijuana that it's "more expensive" now. Instead of going to a regulated dispensary they prefer to go to their dealer. This saves them money on taxes but if we are trying to promote responsible use then it is critical to support responsible sales organizations and trained agents. This is true, even if right now it might be a "pain" to show your ID, wait to enter and then pay more than "your guy".
Follow State Laws And Understand What's Allowed And What Isn't
Different states (and even some municipalities have different rules and regulations when it comes to what's allowed and what isn't. For example, here in California, pretty much anything goes. However, in states such as Maryland, cannabis is legal for medical use, illegal for recreational use, but possession of 10 grams or less is now decriminalized. To make things more complicated, most of Maryland is very close to the District of Columbia where they have one of the most convoluted but easy to access cannabis systems. This so called "Gifting Economy" allows people to transfer - NOT sell - up to an ounce of marijuana as a gift when someone purchases another item. In practical terms, this means you can buy a $50 sticker or statue with virtually no value and as thanks for making that purchase, the shopkeeper can graciously offer you some weed to say thanks for being a great customer.
While this is probably easier than just getting it in your home state, we think it is always best to play by the rules. So, if you live in Maryland and are interested in shopping in dispensaries, it's a wise idea to get a medical marijuana card. Medical marijuana is a real helper for thousands of people (millions maybe?) and while in many instances, "medical" is simply a wink and a nod, don't abuse the privilege.
Read the Label and Packaging For Dosage Amounts
It's bewildering at first. "Back in the Day", there was no measurement. It was simply, "dude! Check out this stuff my friend got!" Today, we have brands and in most states, including California, Colorado, and Nevada the packaging must show the exact THC content. If you are a new consumer, make sure to look for something with a relatively low dosage and ask for assistance. Don't over-consume and enjoy the experience safely.
Watch Out For Your Buddies
With any substance such as alcohol, marijuana, or even prescription drugs, there's an opportunity for abuse that could lead to addiction. This makes it important to watch out for your buddies. While most adults will be able to enjoy the effects of marijuana safely and without problem. It might not be immediately obvious to the person who is developing a problem. That's why it is critical to help each other and be able to speak up if you notice any behavior changes that might indicate a problem. For instance, does your buddy start coming late to work or have behavior changes in his personal life. If so, make sure to help him get some assistance.
Listen and Pay Attention To Your Own Warning Signs
While it's great to have friends watch out for you, ultimately it's up to you. If you have any concerns about your own consumption patterns, try and step back from whatever you are doing. If that's a challenge then seek help.