How to Talk to Cannabis-Averse Family Members at Family Gatherings

Family sitting around the table, chatting

Not sure how to talk to cannabis-averse family members this holiday season? Read on for tips to start the conversation and end on a positive note.

The holiday season has the potential to be the most wonderful time of the year (you know you sang that) but for some people, it ends up being incredibly stressful and upsetting. Financial burden, lack of routine and navigating family dynamics can turn a joyful time into something to slog through. This is especially true for proponents of marijuana in cannabis-averse families.

If this is you, and the thought of sitting through a holiday dinner as the canna-black sleep of the family is making you want to fake a headache and stay home, we might be able to help. Read on for some smart ways to address the topic, to hopefully ease the tension and to educate those who don’t understand how important and useful cannabis can be for many people.

Choose Your Audience and Know Your Limit

First things first: You don’t have to justify your cannabis use to anyone. If you’re not in the mood to talk about it, don’t. If someone makes a comment, you can choose to ignore or deflect the remark and change the subject. This may be your choice if you’re approached by someone you know to be staunchly against marijuana use.

That said, if you’re willing to talk to cannabis-averse family members, know when you’ve had enough. If the conversation devolves into disparaging comments, you can excuse yourself. You don’t need to defend your position when someone isn’t ready to consider your argument.

Listen Actively and Without Judgment

If you find yourself in a constructive conversation about cannabis use, where someone is genuinely interested, take it as an opportunity to address their reservations. Listen to their concerns and show that you’re genuinely willing to consider their perspective. “Wariness is still a thing even though cannabis has been in the medical world for more than ten years,” says Dr. Blake Pearson, founder and medical director of Pearson Health, a specialized medical practice grounded in cannabinoid and integrative medicine practices. By creating a comfortable environment for dialogue, you might actually be able to reach someone and open their mind a little.

Choose the Right Timing

Timing is crucial when it comes to addressing sensitive subjects. If you want to talk about cannabis, and you know it may not be well-received, don’t do it in high-stress moments. A chaotic dinner table is probably not the right setting to approach cannabis-averse family members, for example. Neither is trying to broach the subject when someone has obviously had too much eggnog or champagne. This will increase the likelihood of a positive conversation.

Know What You’re Talking About

If you know that this topic is going to come up, bone up on your cannabis education. Make sure you’re armed with accurate and up-to-date information about potential benefits, risks, laws, consumption methods and more. You don’t have to become a walking, talking cannabis expert, but having a base knowledge will go a long way in your quest to dispel cannabis myths. For family members who still adhere to outdated stigmas, take the opportunity to correct their association between cannabis and criminal behaviour. Use examples of responsible use, harm reduction and how public health experts are evolving their own views on the subject. “You’ll have people who lump medical cannabis into one thing, not understanding the difference between THC and CBD. Explain that there’s no impairment with CBD,” says Dr. Pearson. “Share that there’s evidence for certain conditions, with scientific backing.”

Use Your Own Personal Experience

Being willing to share your own story might be the most powerful tool you have. If cannabis has helped to alleviate symptoms or improve your quality of life, your personal anecdotes can go a long way to promoting understanding. “If you’ve been able to taper off of a medication, or if you’ve seen major improvement in a medical condition, that’s the kind of thing that people will hear and remember,” says Dr. Pearson. By making the cannabis experience relatable, you can hopefully give your family members a different perspective.

Know That It’s Okay to Agree to Disagree

You may not make headway every time you talk to cannabis-averse family members, and that’s okay. If you need to agree to disagree with someone, that doesn’t mean they haven’t heard you; you have given them something to think about, and they may circle back with new points or, better still, good questions to continue the conversation. As long as the conversation remains respectful and all parties are respecting each other’s boundaries, it’s okay to put a pin in the dialogue.

It can take a few conversations to open someone’s mind, so don’t be discouraged if you end up having the same chat more than once. You can choose when you want to engage and when you don’t, but being open to communication with your family may just help to make family gatherings that much easier. And worst case scenario, go smoke a joint in the backyard.


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