How To “Come Out” As A Medical Cannabis User Safely

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There is a great scene in the movie “Steel Magnolias” where the Olympia Dukakis’ character describes the coming out process of a nephew (as gay). In the scene, she describes him telling his parents that he has just a short time to live. After they react in horrified shock, his response is to tell them “actually I am ‘just’ gay.” Coming out as a medical cannabis user, particularly these days, should not have to be quite as dramatic.

However, medical marijuana is still a highly stigmatized drug. And telling family members and friends about using it can still be a bit tricky.

Telling co-workers or your boss is another issue entirely.  However, there are several ways to approach this. It is up to you to figure out how to mix and match.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

medical cannabis user

If you have been prescribed medical marijuana, it is because you have a chronic condition. What you take to manage it is your business.

If you have options and are surrounded by judgemental characters who don’t care about the relief the drug brings you, find a non-smelly way to consume the drug and let sleeping dogs lie. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you are medical cannabis user, but if you don’t want to deal with non-understanding people, there is no reason why you have to talk about it.

The “Tell It Like It Is” Approach

medical cannabis user

You are sick.  You have a condition that other drugs do not treat.  You obtain huge relief from medical Cannabis.  

Bottom line, if your friends and family care about you, the reality is they probably will not care or will be highly relieved you have the medication you need.

Usually, in this situation, it is also best to explain that you indeed do have a doctor who is providing scripts.  

Answer their questions honestly.  

  1. Tell them, if you have enough experience with the drug at this point, how it makes you feel.  
  2. Address the “stoned” concept early and frequently.  
  3. If they are particularly supportive, also discuss coping mechanisms – including, for example, having someone else drive if you have just dosed yourself.

The fact of the matter is that most Americans (close to 90% in most cases) support the use of medical cannabis. It should not be a big deal.

Half & Half

medical cannabis user

There is another decision you have to undertake before you come out as medical cannabis user (particularly outside your immediate family) that you are taking the drug. And that is- you are sick in the first place.  Medical privacy is not just a privilege. It is a right.  

According to the law, violations of medical privacy are akin to a violation of due process.

What that means in non-legal terms is that if people know you are sick, they (unfortunately) can devalue you – as a friend, partner, or even human being.

In the beginning, no matter how much better the drug makes you feel, and after (usually) a battle to get it in the first place, go slow.  

Tell only those people you absolutely have to tell.  If you feel like testing the waters, find a way to work the subject into a conversation (about legalization in general, in your state, in your town) and go from there.

Your Professional Colleagues /Your Boss/HR

medical cannabis user

On every front, this is a landmine.  In every state, tragically, using marijuana medically does not provide you any protection for being automatically fired for doing so (even in states where this is legal).  This will be the case until the drug is legitimized on a federal level.  The reason?  

During passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, homophobic anti-pot forces teamed up to prevent AIDS patients from getting the drug to treat their illness under Medicaid (aka federal health insurance) and wrote it into the federal disabilities rights law that covers private business.  

The Rehab Act (which covers public sector employees) does not mention marijuana specifically, however, the government considers this a Schedule I drug.

However, at some point, particularly if your company has a drug testing policy, this issue is bound to come up – or come out (in a urine cup).  

There are several ways to prepare yourself before you come out as a medical cannabis user.

  1. Be prepared to lose your job.  Seriously.  And start to look for other ways to make a living.  You are joining a long line of people, with both visible and non-visible disabilities, who were forced onto the unemployment line (or back on disability benefits) after revealing their medical use.
  2. Talk to your boss (alone), particularly if you have a good working relationship with them.  Tell them that you have a doctor’s prescription, that it makes you feel better, and if possible, show them where your work has actually improved.  
  3. Do not do the above until you have reached out to a local medical advocacy group. They will undoubtedly have ideas and strategies.

The WildCard

One of the best ways to come out as a medical cannabis user deal, and deal with “medical marijuana” use on all fronts is to take the easy way out (which also may work at work).  

Tell people you have been using dronabinol which is a legally prescribed drug in all fifty states.  

You don’t have to explain this is synthetic THC.  What you do have to say, however, is that it causes marijuana metabolites to show up in drug tests.  That might give you some leeway.

While all of this can be absolutely daunting, take heart.  Change is in the air.  And after all, you feel way better.  This first and foremost, is about you. Remember that.  

What would be your personal approach if a friend or family member confesses to you?

Share your thoughts and stories with us!

Marguerite Arnold

Marguerite Arnold

Marguerite is an American expat. She has worked in digitalization of two industries (film and finance) for over 25 years as well as a professional journalist and writer. She lives in Frankfurt where she is also just finishing her Executive MBA at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, working as a freelancer and writing a medical marijuana/FinTech business plan. She published her first ebook on the pace of marijuana reform last year.

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