Whether you’re new to the cannabis world, or have been a consumer your whole life, talking with family about cannabis can be difficult. Some may be hesitant because of the lack of scientific research available, or perhaps they can’t look past the stigma surrounding “stoners”. It also may not be you who is consuming cannabis. It’s possible someone close to you may have recently started consuming cannabis and a conversation about expectations, boundaries, or rules may be appropriate. Or perhaps it is you, but discreet consumption methods might not be an option for you. Whatever the case may be, our goal is to help normalize consumption, destigmatize cannabis, and encourage the uncomfortable conversation that many of us avoid. For extra support on this topic, clinicians at our sister organization, Aloha Behavioral Consultants, weighed in on ways they believe you can talk to family or loved ones about cannabis and topics to bring up to help steer the conversation in the best direction. For your convenience, this process has been broken down into 5 easy steps for you to follow. Remember, this isn’t a one size fits all model. It’s important to understand who you’re speaking with and to recognize what their background is with cannabis. We’re hopeful that after reading this, you have the confidence to initiate this hard conversation!

Step 1: Listen to Concerns
The first step when talking about cannabis with your family is to listen! Listening is important because you can begin to understand why that person may think the way they do about cannabis. Here you’ll be able to recognize what areas you’ll need to talk about with them. Is it a safety concern? Or is it the lack of societal normalization that casts doubt for them? Aside from listening during this first step, some great questions you can ask are: What are your concerns about cannabis? How do you perceive cannabis? What is your understanding of its purpose? It’s always important to ask these questions in a manner appropriate to your specific scenario. Remember, every situation is different! Take a second, and think about the best way to speak about cannabis with your audience.

Step 2: Address the Concerns
Now that you have brought up cannabis, the hard part is over. Your family has voiced to you concerns that they have and now it is time to address them. It is important to remember for this stage that everyone will respond differently to what you are saying. Knowing your audience and understanding what they will be most receptive to is key. Some concerns they may have include:
Cannabis is still recognized as a schedule 1 drug at the federal level.
Drug testing at your place of employment.
Public perception.
Lack of scientific evidence available for them.
How you consume cannabis (methods, boundaries, health, etc).
Safety and efficacy.
It is important to be open and confident in this step. Your family’s concerns are legitimate and you show that to them by being respectful and honest with how you address them. Not everyone has been made aware of cannabis resources and you can do a great service to them by introducing it to them. A great place to start is Leafly.com.

Step 3: Discuss Cannabis with Them
So you’ve brought up cannabis with your family, you’ve talked about their concerns, now it is a great time to talk about why cannabis is an option for you. You will be able to provide plenty of anecdotal evidence for them, but how are you able to back your claims by science? After all, that may be the reason they don’t support your cannabis consumption in the first place. A simple google search will provide plenty of opinionated pieces on cannabis use but you’ll find that much of it will not be backed by scientific evidence. You want to find sources that corroborate cannabis as a medical aid to a condition you’re seeking to treat. The Journal of Cannabis Research is the only multidisciplinary, open-access, peer reviewed journal that includes not only clinical and scientific research, but also social, business, economic, legal, environmental, and ethical impacts of cannabis use and the changing legal status of cannabis (Weisman et al., 2021). There you will find a plethora of peer reviewed studies that will help you explain the benefits of cannabis to your audience. Don’t worry about accessibility, it’s all open-access! Simply type in “Journal of Cannabis Research” into Google and it should be one of the first links you see.

Step 4: Relate it Back to Your Scenario
If the scientific evidence you present proves to be inefficient, now might be a great time to talk about how the state of Utah treats cannabis. The state has put in place a system in which you must have a qualifying condition in order to be eligible for a cannabis card. Basically, the system works because patients aren’t seeking cannabis to treat a condition of their choice; rather, the state has qualified them as someone who may consume cannabis to treat a pre-existing condition. A medical diagnosis is required, you must present all relative medical documents, while also still complying with all HIPAA regulations. It is a very formal and extensive process when you compare it to the recreational market neighboring states operate in. Once you have explained this, you can effectively demonstrate how cannabis may treat the condition you have. This might be all someone needs to hear in order to support the consumption of cannabis. Here you can explicitly lay out why cannabis works for you and how you’re able to manage your qualifying condition.

Step 5: Discuss Boundaries, Expectations, Etc
As mentioned previously, some may be hesitant of cannabis consumption because of the social stigma surrounding it. Maybe public consumption is not viewed favorably in your area. Or maybe consuming within the comfort of your home isn’t realistic. Whether you are co-living with someone, or still living at a guardian’s house, it is important to be aware of the appropriateness of cannabis. This is a great time to talk about when you need cannabis the most, or when your condition seems to be at its worst. It may be different for everyone. It’s extremely important during all of this to be very honest and open with how you’re talking about cannabis because this might be the only way you’re able to live a pain free life and if the ones closest to you aren’t in support of your consumption, that can present some challenges.


Image Credit: https://www.psychologies.co.uk/how-communicate-better-your-family

Authors: Jared M. Weisman and Marcus Rodríguez, Fortin, A. D., Khodadadi, A. H., Nixon, A. J., Banerjee, A. A., Alshaarawy, A. O., Khan, A. R., Montgomery, A. S., Authors: Gideon Koren and Rana Cohen, & Abioye, A. A. (2021, October 12). Journal of Cannabis Research. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/.

Commissioner, O. of the. (n.d.). FDA and cannabis: Research and Drug Approval Process. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-and-cannabis-research-and-drug-approval-process.