The Case for Cannabis Normalization

In the cannabis industry there’s an ongoing conversation about how to adequately normalize cannabis into society. And, as with everything in this industry, the concept of normalization is fraught with debate and misunderstanding.

This desire for normalization can be interpreted as wanting a world in which there is more cannabis freely available to anyone who wants it or needs it. Some people think that would be great! But obviously the fear factor creeps in when people think of children and teens and the potential for increased youth access. I use the word potential very thoughtfully here because youth already have access in the form of the underground market….but that conversation is probably best saved for another column.

Therefore, I’d like to take a moment to break down what normalization might actually look like.

Normalization of cannabis would mean access to accurate information about cannabis coupled with straight talk to youth. We have decades of propaganda to undo. This propaganda, a side effect of the War on Drugs and Reefer Madness, is woven into the fabric of how we talk about cannabis (and all drugs) to our children. A recent article in Vice magazine titled “How Parents Talk to Their Kids About Drugs in 2016,” discusses this issue and how, in an effort to keep kids off drugs, the results were not only ineffective but in many cases actually increased interest. So, normalization means talking about cannabis thoughtfully, truthfully and with the facts.

Which leads me to my next point. Normalization of cannabis would mean access to and interest in non-biased, scientific research. Prior to and even since legalization, research has been mainly devoted to identifying how cannabis may negatively affect the health of children; increase the rates of impaired driving and other negative issues that could be applied to consumers and communities. Normalization means expanded research into the benefits of cannabis, as well as the harms, so we can make informed choices for our bodies and our communities.  

And last, normalization means access to resources that any other industry would have access to. Resources such as adequate pest management techniques and trainings that the industry can then utilize to produce a safer product; resources such as rebates and incentives for using environmentally friendly business solutions; resources such as fair business regulations, like banking, that help the industry grow responsibly and intelligently.

With this perspective in mind, true normalization and thoughtful integration will only increase the ability of the industry to build foundations of good quality; thereby giving communities the opportunity to interact with cannabis with more informed choices and increased benefits. 

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