People who have never used cannabis are like the ideal unicorn for a threesome. You think they don’t exist, but once you know where to look, they’re everywhere. Back when Reagan was president, it was trickier to get people to admit that they smoke weed. But times have changed.
“The judgment has slowly shifted from ‘You smoke?’ to ‘You don’t smoke?’ but there’s still a stigma associated with cannabis use, whether medicinal or recreational,” says Chalette, a 37-year-old woman living in California who has never smoked weed. Of course, when we say “smoked weed,” we now mean “use cannabis,” as inhalation is only one of the many methods of intake.
According to a July 2019 Gallup poll, 12% of U.S. adults said they smoke marijuana, a figure basically unchanged since 2015. It also found that men are more likely to smoke than women, and liberals are six times more likely to use cannabis than conservatives. So Reagan’s War on Drugs and an anti-marijuana Republican upbringing really is the reason some stay away from the sticky icky.
“There has been a lot of misinformation due to the politics of cannabis,” says psychologist and psychedelic integration therapist Dr. Denise Renye. “I get very fired up about how BIPOC people have been targeted historically in regards to arrests and being jailed for minimal amounts (nicks and dimes) and now that legalization is happening, these folx are still locked up while older, white men are making millions in the industry. I digressed. However, sometimes there could be a racist underpinning as to why people don’t want to engage with cannabis.”
What Keeps People Away
There are evil reasons that some people frown upon weed. In the cannabis cult classic 2008 film The Wackness, Ben Kingsley’s character Dr. Squires famously says, “Never trust anyone who doesn’t smoke pot or listen to Dylan. Never trust anyone who doesn’t like the beach. And NEVER ever, EVER, EVER trust anyone who says they don’t like dogs!” It’s great stoner advice — but what if not everyone who doesn’t smoke weed is an enemy?
“I don’t want to play D&D, travel to Namibia, earn a degree in horticulture, or buy a boat,” Chalette says. “Why don’t I smoke weed? I have zero desire. I don’t consider any of the listed examples bad or good. None of them interest me.”
Some people just don’t like it. Diana, a 34-year-old woman from Virginia, says that she doesn’t like the smell or feeling altered in any way, so has stayed away. “I’m an avid runner and I also worry about the health risks associated with smoking or vaping,” Diana says, adding, “I drink alcohol socially, but have never used any other substance. I have a cocktail or two several nights per week, and coffee every morning.”
There are some lazy stoner stereotypes that keep folks from trying it, but even those can come with a dose of empathy. “Honestly, I have nothing against cannabis. I believe it should be legalized across the country and readily available. That said, I’ve heard from many people growing up that it negatively affects their ambition by robbing them of their drive to reach their goals and such,” says Trevor, a 24-year-old from Phoenix. “I am hesitant to try it, but I am still open to doing so.”
As cannabis use becomes normalized, some folks who don’t do well with alcohol opt for the “Cali sober” lifestyle, in which they smoke but don’t drink. “Substances affect people differently, much like types of medication do. While they do the same thing to the body for everyone, everyone’s body will react differently to it,” says general practitioner Giuseppe Aragona, M.D. Should the stoners and the Cali sober people of the world extend the same understanding to those who drink but don’t use cannabis?
“Substance abuse, whether legal or not, is unique to every individual. I have no problem with any person, using or not using; I do not judge. And as such, persons in my life do not judge me,” says Chalette. The doctor agrees. “Yes, in my work I notice different personality structures are drawn to different substances. And people can have drastically different reactions to each,” Dr. Renye says.
Back in the day, THC got all the attention. But now, as CBD is legal and non-psychoactive, people are cashing in on CBD products all across the country. And customers say it works — even those who have never been high.
“Yes, I would, and currently do use a CBD product,” Chalette says. For several years, she’s had increasing pain on the right side of her rib cage, which was diagnosed as intercostal neuralgia, a form of neuropathic pain. “I‘ve seen doctors and specialists. I‘ve had tests. I was prescribed medications; not to fix the problem, but mask the pain, to which the side effects were horrible. I wanted the pain to be diagnosed and cured, to no avail. So I discontinued traditional medical treatment.”
Her sister-in-law gave her a CBD salve. “I apply it as a topical to my skin when the area acts up: when it rains or the seasonal weather changes, or when the area is inadvertently bumped,” she says.
However, she recently learned that her company’s no drug policy includes hemp-derived CBD products even with THC levels below 0.3 percent. So she stopped using the salve for the sake of keeping her job. “While I know CBD is non-psychoactive, my company policies are strict and, from my perspective, out of date. But that’s a fight for another day,” Chalette says.
Pro-Legalization, But Still Not Inhaling
There’s evidence that many people who don’t use cannabis today are still in favor of legalization. While polling claims that only 12% of Americans use cannabis, recent data shows that two-thirds of the population is in favor of legalizing. “Government is for the people, by the people, and should listen to and change according to the wants of the people,” Chalette says. Diana says that while she’s in favor of legalization, she doesn’t see herself using it even when it’s legalized. For Trevor, forbidden fruit is more tempting. “I am very much against the government telling people what to do in their private lives, both socially and fiscally, so the rebel inside of me is made a bit more eager to test it for myself in light of the restrictions,” Trevor says.
Maybe Dr. Squires is partially right — maybe you can only trust people who don’t smoke weed if they’re pro-legalization. All the more weed for us.