Anger. Outrage. How do people not get it? How can people criticize cannabis users while alcohol use gets hardly any pushback in comparison? How can people be so hypocritical? Shouldn’t we be more worried about opioids? Don’t people know what a travesty it is to go to prison just for possessing a small amount of cannabis?

For many cannabis users, these feelings and arguments are all too familiar. However, cannabis users can do themselves a favor and look beneath their familiar feelings of outrage and protests against injustice. Beneath the surface, cannabis users might find something that is not often talked about, but hugely important to explore: shame.

What is Shame?

First things first: shame is not guilt, which is feeling humiliated or distressed because you know you did something wrong; this is a focus on behavior. We at Cream of the Crop believe that cannabis users should not feel guilty for their medicinal or responsible, recreational use.

Instead, we are talking about shame. If guilt is "I did something bad," shame is "I am a bad person." Shame is a negative focus on yourself as a whole. We believe even more strongly that cannabis users should not feel shame.

Psychologist Dr. Brené Brown defines shame as: “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” 

You may be thinking that you don't struggle with shame because you are completely comfortable with your cannabis use and don't think you are a bad person for using it. That may be true, but let's recall the anger and outrage noted above. 

Every cannabis user ought to seriously consider the historical and pervasive position of our society regarding cannabis: that it is a dangerous, addictive drug that no healthy, responsible, law-abiding person would ever use. Many of us have been exposed to this biased and misinformed perspective since we were children; we heard it on TV, from our schools, and from our families and friends. This means that, to some degree, we may have unconsciously internalized the idea that cannabis is bad, which can lead lead to shame, which is very often accompanied by other negative emotions such as anger, bitterness, outrage, isolation, or rejection.

By struggling internally with society's condemnation of cannabis, we may experience shame and feel like a bad person for using it. And, as Dr. Brown notes, this is an intensely painful feeling.

In Dr. Brown's book I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't) she goes on to say that shame can be triggered by “unwanted identities” that others label us with. If you have been shamed by others because of your cannabis use, you may have felt wrongfully labeled as:

  • Lazy

  • Immature/Stupid

  • Unmotivated

  • Irresponsible/Selfish

  • A bad parent

  • Immoral

  • Trashy

  • Unhealthy 

  • A criminal

In response to shaming and being shoved into these unwanted identities, it’s tempting to feel angry or outraged, and to recite your common (and valid) arguments. But, it’s important to pause, look underneath the surface, and be aware that you have been shamed. Awareness of shame will reveal a shockingly painful depth of negative emotion and isolation.

How to Cope with Cannabis Shaming

We at Cream of the Crop are here to empathize with those who have been shamed for their cannabis use. Many of the people on our team are cannabis users and we believe that being a cannabis user does not make you a bad person. We also empathize with the deep, isolating pain that can sometimes accompany a lifestyle of cannabis use.

To more clearly identify shame and take a step into the Cream of the Crop community, consider sharing your shame by completing our interactive exercise. Below is an example of what some of your responses might look like:

Because of my cannabis use . . .

  1. I don’t want to be seen as: A bad person. 

  2. I don’t want people to think I am: Irresponsible.

  3. I would just die if people thought I was: Doing something to harm someone I care about.

  4. I couldn’t stand it if people thought I was: Just a drug addict.

Instead, as a cannabis user, I want to be perceived as: 

  1. A normal, good person.

  2. Responsible.

  3. Not doing anything worse than having a couple drinks.

  4. A productive member of society, just like anybody else.

Completing this exercise will help you get to the heart of why you may feel so upset and outraged when others wrongfully shame you for your cannabis use. Once you’ve done so, it’s just as important to seek an empathetic ear and a like-minded community so that the shame doesn’t become a persistent problem for you. And that's where we come in. We hope you'll join us in the Cream of the Crop community by introducing yourself to us here.

Thank you for the honor of hearing your story and the opportunity to share your pain.