Helpful Tips for Talking With Your Loved Ones About Cannabis

By Zoe Wilder | July 14, 2017

Interview | Happy Tokes Helps Families Discuss Medical Marijuana

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Millions of patients all over the world are finding relief with help from medical marijuana (MMJ). However, coming out to family and friends about using cannabis isn’t always easy due to lingering stereotypes and misinformation. That’s why MassRoots] reached out to twenty-four year old MMJ activist Madison Ortiz, professionally known as Happy Tokes, to learn more about her personal story and share tips on how to speak to friends and family about discussing cannabis with loved ones.

What was it like for you to come out to your family about using cannabis as medicine?

My family doctor prescribed cannabis to me after a childhood filled with misdiagnoses and adverse reactions to medications. I experimented with cannabis after learning about a friend who was legally using vaporized cannabis to mitigate symptoms of Crohn’s disease and other health issues. My sneaky experimental phase was brief as my dad found my “roach stash” and confronted me alongside my mother. They were upset, but they were willing to listen. I tried to explain myself, despite lacking the proper education and vocabulary to have productive discussions. Cannabis relieved my nausea and enhanced my appetite, which I’m normally lacking. My parents insisted I see a doctor, their doctor. Before I could even justify my experimentation, our family doctor explained that he had only ever written one [MMJ] prescription for a patient prior. Due to my negative experiences with pharmaceuticals, he felt that I needed it just as much, if not more, that the other patient. This reasoning was explained to my family since I was a young adult still living in their household. They bought me a vaporizer and allowed me to use it in my room, but it’s not as nice and easy as it sounds.

What types of hiccups did you encounter?

I never intend to throw my father under the bus because he’s truly an incredible man that has taught me so many valuable life lessons. His past life experiences with cannabis were not positive, and as a concerned father, smelling my medicine often caused him anxiety. We tried to talk about it calmly, but of course those conversations occasionally turned into arguments because of an emotional attachment I had to defending the only sincere relief I had experienced in my entire life. We struggled over my inability to access information. Eventually, I learned about proper consumption methods and what would be most beneficial to my specific set of symptoms.

tips-for-talking-about-cannabisAndrew Potter photo. (Provided to MassRoots)


Would you have done anything differently?

In hindsight, I truly wouldn’t change much. Obviously sneaking around and hiding my early experimental consumption from my parents wasn’t the best move. But, it’s not entirely deplorable considering my life experience, symptoms, and genuine desire to find relief. I was reasonably nervous to approach them. Prior to using cannabis as medication, it was painted to be a bad drug in my life, causing me to feel disappointed in my friends who experimented with it before me. If I could go back and have a different conversation with my peers, at a younger age, my intent would be to have more understanding and to develop a more supportive dialogue in regards to why they felt the need to use cannabis. I hope that, with my platform, I am able to assist others with their early stage transitions into consuming cannabis as medicine. Back then, I had a hard time finding resources and a community that felt approachable. I can only imagine how different the first three plus years of my journey would have been if I had access to more educational support.

In what ways does your family show support for you and your medicine?

My family is quite proud of me. They surely could not have expected such a career path for me in the cannabis industry. They have positive productive discussions with me about my health and my medicine regularly, often allowing me to ramble on about fascinating cannabis related information I’ve learned. If I’m hanging out at their house, my mom will occasionally hop on my live streams to say “hi” while I’m medicating. Respectfully, my brother does not desire to consume cannabis, but he has still shown support to me and my causes by wearing my logo across his chest and inviting his friends to attend events. Dad tells me he’s proud of me often and provides endless support emotionally. We’re a lot more honest with one another about everything since opening up about cannabis. It’s been really nice.

tips-for-talking-about-cannabisHeather Anne Delaney photo. (Provided to MassRoots)


What tips can you share for someone interesting in broaching the topic with their family?

  • Prepare yourself for the discussion. This blog post I wrote is a basic outline that has benefited many already. It’s a great place to start.
  • When doing research, always check multiple sources. Due to prohibition, there’s a great deal of misinformation out there. Be sure to read reliable publications and fact-check.
  • Be calm and try not to become overly defensive. For example, combat a statement like “smoking weed is bad for you” with a rational internal dialogue before responding. Combustion isn’t necessarily the best method of consumption. There are many alternatives on the market like topicals, edibles, and vaporizers. Plus, you can make your own cannabis infused tinctures and oils using a Magical Butter machine, which will help guide the discussion around various consumption methods and the simplicity of self maintenance.
  • Focus on the symptoms that are being experienced. When focusing on a specific set of symptoms and how cannabis is helping you or could help you overcome those symptoms, it’s possible that the person you are communicating with can relate. For example, “I medicate to combat chronic nausea and stimulate an appetite.”
  • Pay attention to the vocabulary words you use. Terminology matters. Using the right words will contribute to a positive outcome.

What if someone’s not ready to talk to their family yet?

  • Educate yourself about cannabis. Make the most of your time before having those important discussions by reading articles and books, watching documentaries, talking to knowledgeable cannabis-friendly doctors, and asking a lot of questions.
  • Find community. The HappyTokesTribe Instagram page is filled with shining examples of people who have gone above and beyond to engage in this community. Reach out and find your new best friends! Many are familiar with the way things roll and will help catch you up. Also, I understand that you may not be able to post “HappyTokes” related content due to local laws, etc., but that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. I always accept content via DM that relates to any of the themes typically shared.
Zoe Wilder

Zoe Wilder is a cannabis industry consultant, writer, PR and communications professional working with people and businesses alike to cultivate success. In addition to bylines in Rolling Stone, High Times, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Merry Jane, MassRoots, and more, Wilder has been applauded as a “pioneer” and “force” by Stoner Magazine and a “connoisseur of the sticky icky” by Cheddar TV’s Freddy B. She runs her own media and consulting company, a Brooklyn-based independent record label, and holds a MA in Social Work from Fordham University and a BA in English from William & Mary.

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