Vickie Smith is studying for her Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling. She and her husband are very new to the legalization movement. Recently she wrote the below responses to 5 questions for a class assignment. I hope you enjoy as much as I did and I know you will appreciate hearing how her perspective has changed.

Assignment - Choose a cultural identity/lifestyle that you don't know much about or do not agree with. Inform yourself about it by attending an event, watching a documentary, reading an autobiography or non-fiction work, or do research regarding the culture, its traditions, and values, then address the following:

Question #1: Which activity did you choose from the above options? Be sure to identify the cultural identity you chose. (note, this topic was not listed. Vickie requested permission to write on the subject, which was granted and encouraged)

"I chose to do research on the use of Cannabis. I researched the use of cannabis on the internet, watched several documentaries, read a book called Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature 2000-2010, and attended several meetings with a group called Texas NORML, and spoke with several people within this organization."

Q#2: Prior to your activity, what was your perspective of the chosen cultural identity (What were your biases, stereotypes, etc.)?

"Prior to my activities, my perspective of the use of cannabis was the mental picture of hippies sharing a pipe, living in vans and happy to be where they were or a young man sitting on the couch playing video games with no ambition to work and provide for his family. These stereotype perspectives were from media coverage I have seen all my life and from a personal perspective of experience with a family member, feeling sadness and anxiety about their future, or the lack thereof because of their use of marijuana."

Q#3: Based on your experience and/or information gained what did you learn about the chosen culture?

"I learned that cannabis is a plant used for medicinal purposes for hundreds if not thousands of years. I learned that educated, highly educated, law abiding (except for this I guess) citizens use cannabis to help them with symptoms of many kinds of illnesses. I learned that they go to school, work full time respectable jobs, and provide for their families. I learned they are compassionate caring individuals who are very passionate about what they believe. I learned they are not “pot heads” who want to get high but they are well-behaved people who actually do have a “grasp” on reality and are trying hard to be the voice of reason and stand up against the stigma associated with cannabis. I learned that the majority, if not all, of the stigma that comes with the mention of cannabis is political. I learned that because there are individuals who are not afraid to step outside the accepted lines of society, we now know the great many benefits of the use of cannabis. I learned that it was actually used in America as medicine until the early 1900’s and was banned in the 1930’s against the advice of the American Medical Association."

Q#4: How did your experience and/or information impact your previous perspectives?

"My experience has made me a “freak of nature” so to speak. I do not look, act, promote, nor am I, a “pot head”, a term so easily used when referring to someone who uses marijuana. I am not even a “user” of what I believe should be legal for adults to use if they so choose. I am a person that will slam the brakes on at a yellow light (much to the dismay of my husband) for fear of getting a ticket. However, do not doubt I would stand up to any and everyone necessary to say on behalf of my dear Vietnam veteran husband, who suffers from chronic pain and PTSD, “Take your morphine, (you know what to do with it), give my husband marijuana and LET HIM LIVE AND LIVE IN PEACE! Oh, and while you are at it, let ME live in peace." My experience has opened my eyes to what I hope will become legal in this state and I will do my part to help make it happen. I care much more about the health of my husband than what “society” thinks of me endorsing the use of marijuana. Synthetic medicine kills people. It makes them sicker and causes them to take other medications to counteract the side effects of the medicine they take for something else. It is a never-ending cycle and it’s time someone, MANY someone's, stand up and say, enough is enough, at least let me choose what I want to put into my body to help me; a plant that grows in the ground, or chemicals put together in a capsule inside a lab."

Q#5: How will your experience and/or information help you better serve your clients who identify with that cultural identity?

"I no longer have a preconceived idea about the use of cannabis and cannabinoids. I see people as people, not potheads. When I choose a group of people and attach a label to them, I am giving permission to the rest of the world to label me. Myself, I trust what comes from the Earth more than I trust what comes from humans." ~