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To Be Blunt: Communication key when couples differ on cannabis

To Be Blunt is an advice column from sex educator, relationship coach and medically-certified cannabis consultant Chelsea Cebara. (Getty Images)
To Be Blunt is an advice column from sex educator, relationship coach and medically-certified cannabis consultant Chelsea Cebara. (Getty Images)
By Chelsea Cebara EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Warm greetings, readers! I’m Chelsea Cebara, a cannabis and relationship expert, and I’ve been invited to guide readers though some of the issues unique to the intersection of loving weed and being human. I’ve been a sex educator and relationship coach, and I made my name in the cannabis industry by developing the world’s first water-based THC lube, Velvet Swing.

The stigma around cannabis is relaxing more each day, and it’s high time we talked openly about the challenges, passion and joy this plant can bring to our lives and relationships.

Here’s a question I received recently:

My husband and I have a tension point around my cannabis use. I use MJ for physical pain/mental health, but my husband generally thinks all drugs are bad – even though he knows marijuana provides me relief. He usually doesn’t say anything, but I can feel his disapproval when I consume. What can I do to convince him that medical marijuana is safe and effective?

Before we start solving this problem, let me share some background, and ultimately useless, information.

Human beings have had a relationship with the cannabis plant for over 12,000 years. Our earliest evidence of its use as a drug comes from burned resin found at the campsites of nomadic Yamnaya merchants, approximately 10,000 years ago.

Since then, cannabis has been in the pharmacopoeia of every civilization. Its analgesic (pain-killing), anti-inflammatory, and mental health-supporting effects have been documented and used with a safety record nearly unparalleled in medical science: not a single fatality has ever been attributed to cannabis use alone, and its side effects are negligible.

The current stigma attached to cannabis use is incredibly novel. It is the result of a small number of racist bad actors who used positions of power to codify their prejudice and unethical business practices into law.

We don’t have more peer-reviewed studies demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of cannabis because of its placement as Schedule 1 drug, the federal government’s most restrictive category for narcotics. Since studying Schedule 1 drugs requires a difficult-to-procure license and limits federal funding, cannabis prohibition has been stuck in a self-reinforcing loop: we can’t do rigorous studies unless it’s down-scheduled, and they won’t down-schedule without studies.

You say your partner thinks all drugs are bad, but what we think of as a ‘drug’ is socially informed. Does your partner drink coffee? Is he aware that being in love alters your judgment more than being drunk? Does he take medicines prescribed by a doctor?

I’m going to assume that he doesn’t take equivalent exception to legal intoxicants or prescribed medicines. The reason for that is he likely sees these as useful whereas feeling good is merely fun. More on that later, but the point is that cannabis is one of humanity’s most ancient and trusted medicines, and that its vilification is recent, racist and unscientific.

Why is this information useless?

Because while it’s tempting to lay out all the facts and win with logic and reason, facts won’t always change minds, but empathy will. Your partner needs to see the connection between cannabis use and improved quality of life for his loved one. This is about communication, not cannabis.

Invite him, at a time when you’re both feeling positive toward each other, to communicate his feelings to you, and ask that afterwards he listen to your point of view with an open mind and in good faith.

In this first conversation, your goal is to understand him, not change his mind. Empathy is bi-directional: start by seeing where your husband is coming from. Be curious rather than defensive. Take a break before things become tense; remain committed to having this conversation be a positive. You and your husband are not adversaries – you are a team trying to figure out the problem.

The next time you talk you can dig into the nuts and bolts of his judgment. Get at the real “why” of his objection before rattling off statistics or citing studies. Be prepared to compromise. For example, if his concern is that you will be intoxicated in front of children, commit to never consuming when you have potential childcare responsibilities. If he doesn’t like smoke, offer to invest in a vaporizer or switch to tinctures.

One branch of reasoning that clicks with many cannabis-negative folks is emphasizing use as medicinal rather than recreational, but this is, in my opinion, a risky dichotomy. Our medical system is soaked in Puritanical notions of morality – if something feels good, it’s morally bad, and therefore not medicine. Enjoyment is something you apologize for, compensate for, separate from daily experience. We party on the weekend, after work. Rest is laziness. Sexual health is different than regular health. Massage is poorly covered by insurance.

It’s my hope that in the years to come we are able to broaden our conception of medicine to include what we all intuitively know: that pleasure is good for you. You might even say it’s medicine.

Chelsea Cebara is a medically-certified cannabis consultant and product developer. She teaches and speaks nationally on the intersection of cannabis with sexuality, relationships, and culture. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaCebara.
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