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10 minutes minute

Talking to Your Family About Cannabis

By Margaret Sung RHN, CHt.
Holistic Nutritionist

Having a conversation with your family about cannabis can be uncomfortable, especially when there are conflicting feelings on the subject.

As a holistic nutritionist, it was important for me to have my family understand why I work with cannabis. I explained that, in my line of work, it is common to be trained in various alternative therapies, like nutrition, hypnotherapy, and yoga. Working with medical cannabis is simply another tool in my holistic toolkit.

My family had a lot of questions, but we were able to come to an understanding. In my world, no matter what side of the cannabis conversation people are on, starting from a place of empathy is always helpful. Whether your loved one is a teenager, adult or grandparent, here are a few things to consider before talking to them about cannabis.

1. Figure out why it’s important to you to have this conversation

Personally, I didn’t want to hide anything about my work as a holistic nutritionist from my family—especially the aging members, since they were the ones who could potentially benefit from cannabis. One of the reasons I wanted to open up this conversation was to understand each other and discuss how cannabis might improve their quality of life.

Be honest with yourself about why you want to talk to your family about cannabis. Is it to inform them about your consumption? Is it to offer a way to alleviate their discomfort? Is it to provide education so they can make the best decision for themselves? Or is it to stir the pot or prove a point? Obviously one of the earlier motivations is better.

Creating a safe and non-judgmental space is much more likely to encourage your family members to be open and share more information. This is not an opportunity to preach, debate or try to convince them of anything.

2. Know your audience

Step into your family’s shoes and try to understand their world. Since you probably already know them well, this shouldn’t be hard. What struggles led to their positive or negative views of cannabis? How can you be empathetic to their situation without judgment?

My family immigrated to Canada for a better life—a life my ancestors left behind due to the aftermath of war. Their stories remind of how lucky I was to be born in Canada. But their experiences obviously impact their views on cannabis. When starting the conversation about cannabis, I decided to focus on listening to help decide what information would be most useful to provide.

3. Recognize their beliefs about cannabis and learn how they were developed

Beliefs are often formed through personal experiences. What I found helpful when talking to my family about cannabis was to find out how they originally developed their beliefs about cannabis. Then I dug deeper: what were the emotions connected to these beliefs?

I learned that in China cannabis is considered the same kind of drug as opium, even though cannabis was recorded as medicine a few thousand years ago in the Chinese pharmacopeia. The Chinese community believes opium contributed to the set back of China’s economy due to colonization. As such, many of my family members felt fearful of cannabis.

Addressing fear by showing that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) used cannabis for therapy was a great segue into modern evidence-based research. Much of the research I showed them spoke to ailments they were experiencing.

4. Do your research

It is helpful to gain a deeper understanding of when cannabis can be helpful or not. Participating in the conversation with science, statistics, and raw honesty can leave everyone feeling more open and connected. No one can debate well-researched science. But make sure to build a balanced perspective by gathering research on views that might oppose your beliefs as well.

Some common research topics include:
  • Seizure disorders in adults and children
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammation
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea caused by cancer treatment
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis 

5. Understand the difference between medical cannabis and cannabis for enjoyment

Help loved ones learn about the type of care they might access. Know the difference between medical cannabis and cannabis for enjoyment (often referred to as recreational cannabis).

Consumers who purchase cannabis for enjoyment are able to:

  • Visit a brick and mortar store or authorized online channel
  • Are not required to have a doctor’s authorization to access cannabis
  • Receive in-person guidance from a trained representative in a retail location
  • The ability to see cannabis products and accessories when visiting a physical store

Medical patients are authorized by their doctors and can purchase directly through an LP’s which allows patients:

  • High standard of care under a physician's guidance
  • In some cases, the ability to claim the expense on taxes
  • Veterans or individuals with certain conditions may receive coverage

It’s worth noting that recreational cannabis strains can absolutely be used for medical purposes, and vice-versa. Starting the conversation is the first step and can often feel like the hardest. This process may require more than one discussion. Keep in mind how long it took you to learn everything and develop an informed opinion on cannabis. Be your family’s support and allow time for loved ones to absorb, process and question without feeling judged.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, psychiatrist or mental health professional. I am sharing my experiences as a medical cannabis consumer and a holistic nutritionist. Please discuss with your primary health care provider first before experimenting with cannabis.

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