Guest column: Stigma gets in the way of the cannabis conversation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

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Guest column: Stigma gets in the way of the cannabis conversation

A recent Gallup Poll showed 70 percent of Americans support cannabis deregulation. In November of 2016, California passed Proposition 64, allowing its counties to decide if the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana for those over 21 years of age.

Regardless of the data showing that weed is becoming more and more socially accepted, there remains a negative connotation associated with the topic. This stigma gets in the way of having a rational conversation about what we at a community level can do to adapt and leverage recreational cannabis to our benefit.

Maybe it's because we don't even have a clear way to talk about the topic itself. As I write this column, I'm struggling to find a socially acceptable noun to use:

Pot: As in, my father grew pot in the backyard when I was a little girl.

Marijuana: As in, I support medicinal marijuana over pharmaceuticals whenever possible.

Weed: As in, people can smoke weed frequently and still perform at work and contribute to society.

Dope: As in, I'm worried my colleagues will think I'm some kind of degenerate dope smoker after reading this.

Cannabis: As in, California's ballot Proposition 64 deregulated cannabis and it's time to evolve.

How can we have a conversation about cannabis without facing the risk of being stereotyped as a hippie, a lazy stoner, a deadbeat, a druggie, or some other trope? It's time to clear a path for a frank discussion, and find common ground.

I look forward to the upcoming town hall event, "Understanding Recreational Cannabis" on Wednesday, April 19, hosted by the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals (TRYP) to learn more. The event will feature a panel of city, county and state-level representation from California and Colorado. It's free to attend and will offer a neutral platform to ask questions in person or submit questions online through TRYP's website and social media channels using the hash tag #TahoeTownHall.

Save the date and join TRYP at the Tahoe Beach Retreat's conference room from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., on April 19, or check out the live stream and a full recording available at http://www.TahoeTRYP.org.

Understandably, there are instances that lend to marijuana being demonized as a violence-inducer and gateway drug. I get it. But in the array of vices in our community — gambling, a rising heroin and pill addiction rate, and a liquor store at almost every intersection on U.S. 50 — I wonder if recreational cannabis is really as bad as it's portrayed at times.

Absolutely there is a valid concern about the impacts of recreational cannabis on our community and how to even begin implementing and regulating Proposition 64. Is there a balance? How do we enforce it? What happens if we ban it, yet other counties around us don't?

There are many questions about the pros and cons of the matter, but we need to be able to have this conversation without either side worrying about being stereotyped.

As Lake Tahoe grapples with infighting over redevelopment projects and how to fund much needed improvements to our built environment, I can't help but wonder if a possible solution could be taxing the heck out of cannabis sales to benefit local infrastructure like fill pot holes, increase snow removal services, create tourism and enforcement jobs, fund a free shuttle service, or support substance abuse and treatment programs.

Here's to learning more and starting a more evolved dialogue.

Jenna Palacio is the former executive director of Tahoe Regional Young Professionals and is moderating the upcoming Tahoe Town Hall on "Understanding Recreational Cannabis." Find her on Twitter or Instagram at @JennaSierra.