When Numbers Do Lie. A Story of Free Speech And Unintended Consequences.
Last week GALLUP released a recent poll showing a two-fold increase in adult cannabis use over a similar poll conducted three years ago. The poll showed 13% of American adults told Gallup they currently smoke marijuana, up from 7% in 2013. Why did this increase occur? It would be easy to assume the growth’s catalyst was legalized cannabis. We have doubled the number of states where one can smoke recreational cannabis since 2013. It would dove-tail in nicely with the results of this most recent poll, so it would be easy to slap a headline on this and call it a closed case.
Some headlines attributed it to age, income and one article even attributed it to a loss of our spiritual beliefs. All possible, but let’s keep an open mind and use our brains critically, those that can at least accomplish such a task.
Last year, the Weed for Warriors toured America and one thing that shocked me was how people censored themselves when the topic of “marijuana” came up. Take a Vietnam Veteran we met in Philly who happened to be African-American; he smoked, he loved what cannabis did for him. His pains were diminished, he could sleep, a repetition of stories we heard every day in every state we visited in this Country. However, once we turned on the camera to talk about our cannabis use, the dynamic shifted. That same Veteran we had talked to wouldn’t even mention the word cannabis, marijuana or anything else and denied ever seeing it, let alone using it.
Who could blame him either, after multiple attempts to get him to talk about cannabis on camera, my respect for this gentleman forced me to drop the issue. I realized he was the intelligent one, his years of experience told him talking about this “illicit substance” in public was just stupid. For a man whose life had been a front row seat to the War on Drugs and it’s consequences for his community, he had been conditioned to not be honest. A dishonesty that was based in morality, the morality of self-preservation for himself and his family.
Call it my “white privilege”, call it a generational issue, call it me just having an inability to not say what is on my mind; it is most likely all the above. However, whatever it is, what I saw that day and have recognized everyday since, is a hesitancy by a large segment of the population regardless of race, willing to have an honest and open dialogue about their health and their use of cannabis.
Whether it’s an inability to be honest with your Doctor like us Veterans experience at the VA, or to be honest on a questionnaire when in High School about our drug use or any of the other situations we censor our free speech out of conditioning. Maybe when Gallup randomly calls over 1,000 homes and asks about Cannabis use, the increase is just a more honest peek into America’s lives vs any real increase in the use of this plant. Maybe, just maybe, as the social norms around Cannabis loosen, we are going to see an increase in the population willing to be honest vs lie like we have all historically done.
Censorship is never good. Be it forced upon a population directly or indirectly. To govern, we must have a grasp on what is really going on. For too long, we have had our heads stuck in the proverbial sand wishing a problem we don’t like away. A problem that may not even be the problem we thought because we can’t even have an honest discussion in this country about so many things. – Sean Kiernan