Talking to Your Family About Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is like any other course of treatment - it’s important for a patient’s family and confidantes to know what’s happening and what to expect. For some patients, telling their loved ones about their usira of medical cannabis is no big deal… but for others, there could be some challenges.

Because medical marijuana is a relatively new idea for most people, and because some outdated societal taboos around marijuana are still prevalent, the idea of talking about it with your family may generate some stress. Here are some tips and things to consider when you’re ready to have “the talk.”

Approaching the Conversation

While many people have accepted cannabis as a good alternative to opioid painkillers and other pharmaceutical drugs, for some people, there is still a stigma associated with marijuana. For others, a lack of understanding or knowledge of what to expect may cause fear or anxiety.

You want to tell loved ones that you are now a registered medical marijuana patient, and that you intend to use cannabis to your benefit. You also want to answer any questions that they may have. It all sounds so simple, so what’s the problem?

One of the issues is likely to be the fact that marijuana is classified by the federal government as a schedule 1 drug. People may even (incorrectly) associate cannabis with the level of danger and risk of other schedule 1 narcotics, such as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD.

One approach to this point is to remind loved ones that medical marijuana has a long history of debate among experts, researchers, general practitioners, and lawmakers. Regardless of its federal drug classification, many people view cannabis favorably instead of with fear because of the benefits it’s proven to provide.

Lawmakers are coming around, too. Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, with more likely soon. In addition, a handful of states, including Massachusetts, have already taken the next step, and legalized the use of cannabis outright.

Group Setting Vs. One-on-One

One thing you might consider is speaking with your family members individually. This way, you can choose the environment that best suits the temperament of a specific person. A one-on-one meeting may even help diffuse tension, and loved ones may feel more comfortable freely expressing themselves to you without the fear of judgment in a group setting.

Pick the right environment for this discussion. It should be a setting that suits both you and the person you're speaking with, so consider their needs as well as your own. After all, making them comfortable will foster a productive talk. 

Some Additional Tips for Talking about Marijuana with Your Family

You should expect both positive and negative reactions, that's natural. Instead of debating the logic of each point and counterpoint, a better approach is to simply emphasize that you intend to use medical marijuana because you have a medical issue you hope it will help manage. Safety concerns such as driving under the influence or even inhaling smoke are valid worries your loved ones are likely to express. Share with them your ability to hold yourself accountable and to follow the laws of the state of Massachusetts, which have been established in order to safeguard patients against these risks. Assure your family that while there are some risks, there are also some great rewards.

Using cannabis doesn't have to mean smoking it. Vaporizing technologies are easy-to-use, mature solutions. Likewise, cannabis tinctures and edibles are also available as an alternative to smoking. For family members who do not wish to see you “high,” it might also be helpful to explain the possibility of using cannabis strains such as cannabidiol (or CBD), which offers patients the medicinal benefits of marijuana without the so-called “head high.”

Addressing the Heart of the Matter: Children

When children are involved, there are a number of additional concerns that will need to be addressed.

For parents with teenagers, these children might see a parent’s using cannabis as the “green light” for them to start using cannabis, too. Addressing this head-on and openly is important. An adult using cannabis to treat a chronic condition does not equal approval for underage experimentation "for fun." Alcohol use is a parallel example that may be easy for them to understand; responsible use by adults is what has been legalized, not reckless consumption. Emphasize the importance of cannabis for your particular health circumstance. Remind them that you are using medical marijuana because you hope it will manage your particular health condition(s). You are not using just to “get high”; there is a fundamental difference.

If you have a partner or a spouse, talk about managing household responsibilities, especially the care of children. Juggling childcare responsibilities and treating your medical needs with cannabis could be a sensitive subject. Work with your partner up-front to create strategies that benefit the whole family, and let them voice questions and concerns. As with any serious relationship matter, it's important to truly listen to your partner and patiently hear them out. Work together to coordinate management of duties and to set ground rules.

One way to assure a worried partner is to commit to “doing the right thing.” In addition to following the state laws, of course you will continue to be a responsible parent. Avoiding inappropriate use of cannabis in front of children, practicing safe storage, and remembering not to leave marijuana, especially edibles and tinctures, laying around (which opens up possibilities for either inadvertent use or intentional misuse) are all ways to remove anxiety from the situation.

Medical Marijuana Is Medicine, Not Just Some Hobby

At the end of the day, it’s important for family members to remember that medical cannabis is there to help your particular health situation, be it a debilitating disease, chronic pain, anxiety, or other malady. Cannabis is just another possible solution to a health issue that you are trying.

Help your family see that medical marijuana is a medication just like any other. After surveying other available drugs and treatments, your doctor and you made the joint, responsible decision to give cannabis a try. Certainly such a decision is safer than going with some of the alternative medications available for pain management, such as opiates, which have caused widespread death and destruction across Massachusetts towns and cities.

You’ve done the hard part by taking a step toward solving your problem. Now's the time to stay positive about this fact, and share this great news with the people you love.

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