We know that roughly half the adults in the entire country have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives, and that more than 30 million Americans have smoked just in the last year, a number that continues to increase each year. What is not so clear is precisely who smokes marijuana. If one were to rely on the popular culture for that answer, you might conclude marijuana smokers are cultural misfits living a lifestyle better suited for the 1960s and 70s.
The Current Inaccurate Images Held by Non-Smokers
Because of a number of factors resulting from prohibition (i.e., recreational marijuana smoking remains illegal in most states; a social stigma still attaches to marijuana smoking; and most middle-class marijuana smokers must remain “in the closet” to protect their jobs), the public image of marijuana smokers has been largely shaped by those on the fringes of the marijuana culture. Too often the result, fueled by stoner movies and popular culture, has been a cartoon-like image of the stoned slacker whose life is all about getting and staying stoned all day.
While most of us who smoke marijuana have learned to enjoy the humor, it has without question held us back politically.
Because of those negative stereotypes, even in the states that have legalized marijuana and stopped arresting smokers, marijuana smokers are simply not treated fairly in a number of important areas that impact us on a daily basis. Private employers are still legally permitted to fire an employee who tests positive for THC without any evidence the employee came to work in an impaired condition. Child welfare agencies across the country routinely presume that any use of marijuana by a parent with minor children is evidence suggesting the parent may be unfit to retain custody of his/her child. And marijuana smokers remain subject to arrest and prosecution for a DUID charge, simply because some level of THC was found in their system , without any showing of impairment. These and other discriminatory practices would not be tolerated if those of us who smoke were seen as good, responsible citizens.
Who Smokes Marijuana Today?
While the survey was far too small to provide statistically significant data, a recent poll designed to learn more about the demographics of marijuana smokers does allow us to peek behind the curtain that continues to mask the identity of most marijuana smokers. This new poll, the Civilized Cannabis Culture Poll, suggests those negative stereotypes common in the media are pure fiction and do not accurately reflect the marijuana smoking culture in America. They found that smokers are just average people with families, careers and full lives, in addition to their marijuana smoking.
So We’re Not Slackers, After All
According to the Civilized poll results, most marijuana consumers are homeowners (66%); 74% are employed ; half have a household income of $75,000 or higher; 51% hold supervisory or executive roles at work; 52% have completed college or university-level programs; and 78% are married with children.
That sounds pretty mainstream and middle-class to me.
The poll also confirmed that most (73%) marijuana smokers admit they sometimes feel the need to hide their marijuana smoking from their family members, friends, or colleagues at work. Twenty-four percent of the men reported hiding their use from their wives or significant others, while 17% of women said they did the same. The percentage using marijuana surreptitiously was highest among young smokers and higher-income smokers. Without question, some social stigma remains attached to marijuana use, causing many smokers to keep their marijuana smoking a private matter.
This survey found that once smokers reach retirement age, more people feel free to come out of the closet. Less than 7% of those over 45 years of age said they hid it from their spouse or partner. Apparently there are some advantages to age, and being honest about one’s marijuana use is one of those.
Get To Know Your Neighbors
All of which brings me back to the need for more middle-class marijuana smokers to let their friends and neighbors and, where possible, their colleagues at work, know they are responsible marijuana smokers in addition to being good neighbors and loving parents.
If non-smokers understand that we are just like them, except that we prefer to smoke a joint at the end of the day to relax, just as tens of millions of other Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, then we can finally overcome the remaining obstacles that keep us from enjoying the same rights as all other citizens.
We do not need to blow smoke in the face of those who do not approve of marijuana, but we do need to demonstrate by our conduct that we are good, productive citizens. Our use of marijuana is just one aspect of our lives and nothing that should concern them.
Until we do this, we will continue to face unfair discrimination based solely on our choice of intoxicants. We have the ability to end marijuana discrimination, and we have the obligation to try.
We are only incidentally talking about marijuana smoking. We are really talking about personal freedom and equality.
This column was originally posted on marijuana.com:
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