Ending the Stigma

As cannabis nears recreational legalization in Canada, the generation who lived through the War on Drugs has more access, information and support than ever before to confidently approach cannabis use and feel the stigma around it increasingly losing its hold.

It takes a village to make change, and sharing personal stories of experience are one way cannabis industry professionals are doing their part to diminish the misinformation and damaging rap cannabis has garnered for many decades. Dori Edwards, co-founder, product developer and brand manager of Bloom City Club and Blue Sage Health Consulting, shares her story about hiding her own cannabis use, being asked to deliver “pizza” to her aunts and uncles at family reunions, and finding success in the cannabis space.

When did you start smoking, and what does it do for you?

I first tried smoking cannabis when I was 18. It was okay and I only smoked once. At 19, I took a job as a camp counselor at a dude ranch for the summer and that’s where I was really introduced to it. The wranglers always had it and we would smoke and sing around the bonfires or take long hikes to the mountaintops. The feeling was expansive and freeing. I was raised as a strict Catholic and smoking made me contemplate spirituality in an entirely new way.

In 1992, I went back to Michigan. While studying psychology at Michigan State University, the friends I was drawn to for philosophical reasons always had incredible “high grade.” We used to smoke and play music, cook organic food, go camping, and take hikes all while having incredible conversations about the meaning of life, religion, evolution, and energy. We didn’t just use cannabis, we tried other herbs like mugwort too, and practiced lucid dreaming together. We were way ahead of our time. Smoking brought me a lot of expansive thought. I have scoliosis and this was well before we knew how much it helped with pain and inflammation, but I found my body felt much better after smoking. I’ve never been diagnose but I have my suspicions I have ADHD. Smoking helped me focus. Smoking still to this day helps me get in the mood to sit at my desk long enough to get something done.

How have you seen the stigma around cannabis reverse or decrease?

It was very taboo to smoke “pot” in the early 90s. My family thought I was a “druggie” and I would laugh and tell them, “You’re the ones going into the DRUG store.” I found it extremely hypocritical how many drugs people would blindly take just because their doctors told them to. I never took any of that or believed in pharmaceuticals. To me, it was counter intuitive.

I still feel that way but back then, in my young 20s, I was much more righteous and in your face about it. Then I became an early childhood teacher and I drastically hid my cannabis use, even gave it up for a year now and again just because I thought I should. I never told any of my co-workers. When I retired from teaching and opened a pot shop in 2010, I withdrew from my teaching colleagues and was terrified to run into them for fear they would ask what I was up to. I was a single mom of two children in elementary and middle schools at the time, and I kept my distance at soccer games and school functions because I knew people would ask what I did for a living and even though my children were great students and well-liked by teachers, I still thought I and, in turn my children, would be judged. I didn’t know how to just say it. I felt like a second-class citizen even though I was helping so many people during the day that came into my shop. Now, since 2015, with all the national headlines and the Women Grow movement normalizing it, I finally answer the dreaded question bravely and with confidence: “I educate people on the endocannabiod system and our civil right to choose cannabis as medicine,” and I actually get a fairly warm response!

Do you feel more comfortable to be open about your usage now?

I think now because I’ve proven myself as a professional, have been successful with owning and operating businesses and am 45, I don’t care as much about what other people think. So yes, I am way more comfortable about being open to my use of cannabis but I rarely smoke in public or around my children.

What can we do to keep ending the stigma?

What I did to end some of the stigma when I opened my shop in 2010 was decided all employees and myself would begin dressing like business professionals. I wanted that demographic to feel really comfortable when they walked through my doors. I didn’t want a tie dyed T-shirt to keep the distance or the stigma alive. My employees at Bloom City Club are the best-dressed cannabis bud tenders in the state! The other thing I do to end the stigma is talk to people and really find out what they don’t like about it with an open mind. I’ll open conversations on airplanes with people and ask them if they know we have an endocannabinoid system, after general greetings and small talk, of course.

Education and healthy, nonjudgmental communication is always best when talking to the opposition. They are not wrong for having their opinions. They’ve been systematically lied to. I co-founded Blue Sage Health Consulting in 2017 to help end the stigma as well. This organization goes into elder care homes and only talks about CBD. People feel safe learning about CBD. It’s a step in the right direction.

 Do you often smoke with friends?

I barely have time for my friends running a cannabis business. But yes, we will go rafting down the river or have a potluck dinner now and again, and smoke a little. Not all of my friends smoke. When I first moved to Ann Arbor, I hung out with a lot of musicians. We were in our mid 20s and we would sing, dance, play West African drum polyrhythms that we studied in Guinea, and smoke all night long! Now a joint lasts me a week.

What does your family think of your usage?

My family thought I had lost my mind after I left my catholic high school graduating with almost straight As. I was set to get a great education at the university and be successful with a normal 9-5. Instead, I hit the road any chance I got and went out west. I lived out of a tent and traveled in my Volvo station wagon. This was before cell phones, so sometimes they wouldn’t hear from me for months. I can’t imagine my children doing that to me now. My poor mother. It was always awkward at family holidays and they never brought it up. Maybe they thought if they didn’t talk about it, my “drug” habit wouldn’t exist.

At our annual family reunions, I would see aunts and uncles sneaking off. When rumour got out I’d opened a pot shop, I started getting phone calls. Aunts and uncles called me asking me to deliver them some “pizza” when I came to the reunion. I did this for years. Everyone thought no one else knew their secret and that no one else in the family smoked. Everyone puffed in private in the woods. Just in the past few years, it’s become an open topic but we still aren’t smoking around the fire at night together. The best part is, I’m a grower and my mom and both brothers now work for me and love it! They still don’t partake but they do see the medicinal value. That’s a win.

How has cannabis changed your lifestyle?

Cannabis has changed my life for the better in numerous ways. It has connected me on a different level to people across the globe when that joint is passed around the circle. It has built a layer of trust and deeper connection within my community of underground users. It has made me think outside the box and the bell curve. Cannabis made me question everything because when I learned about the many uses of hemp from Jack Herer’s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, in the early 90s, and began understanding prohibition and the politics behind its ban, it made me question every other institution and what they were trying to tell the masses.

Cannabis made me think for myself. I fought from a young age for the right to choose this medicine for my body. I put myself at the forefront of the war on drugs for the people to be able to have this choice and safe access. I lived under constant stress and still do to an extent. I am entirely thankful the tides are turning and really hope this industry continues being a fair market economy and spreads the wealth among the people. This plant is so beautiful in its divine design. I feel blessed indeed.

Story by Anicée Gaddis
Illustration by Elena Boils

The preceding is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to condone the use or consumption of cannabis. For more information, please refer to our disclaimer

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