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How to Be More Inclusive of Cannabis Friends with Disabilities

The cannabis community is made up of patients and industry workers who come from vastly different walks of life. It really is amazing to see how many different people are using cannabis daily to live their best life. You may only be familiar with people who use cannabis for relaxing vs those who rely on many forms of cannabis medicine, like topicals and edibles, to treat daily symptoms caused by chronic conditions. You may have friends with disabilities who use cannabis to control daily physical pain of getting around, or friends who suffer pain from PTSD and other mentally compromising conditions that can cause struggles in daily social interactions.

I may have overlooked some good ones but here are my tips to be more inclusive of friends and colleagues within the cannabis community. Whether you are a cannabis consumer who is learning to be more inclusive of cannabis friends or a budtender/dispensary manager who meets diverse groups of people everyday, these thoughts are for everyone.

The drawing below is the universal sign for Weed/Marijuana/Cannabis. Most of you will know this first one. Do not forget to check out our cannabis glossary sign language video, available on our app, where we show more signs related to cannabis products and consumption.

How to be inclusive

American Sign Language | Smoke Cannabis

  1. Wear a transparent mask.

This tip can help ease communication and comfort levels to help avoid stress associated with some disabilities. You may encounter a cannabis friend who has trouble interacting if they are unable to hear clearly through the mask. This can help those who are hearing impaired and those who may experience anxiety from shopping interactions in public places. If you’re seshing with a friend who is hearing impaired, then be sure to ask the correct signs for blunt, dab, rig, joint, wax. Pro Tip: If your cannabis friend is blind, then be sure they can smell the terps of the extract or dry hit the flower to experience the flavors beforehand… don’t just hand them a lit joint without giving them a preview first. The same goes for a friend who has lost or decreased sense of smell. In this case, describe the aromas and flavors to them, to help them know which profile they may like best.

  1. Be more mindful of accessibility for disabled persons at the sesh or dispensary.

Choose the parking spot near the back of the dispensary parking lot. It’s thoughtful to save the front spots for patients who have more difficulty getting around. When hosting a sesh or cannabis event, make sure seating and table space is accessible for guests who arrive in a wheelchair or walk with other assistance. This is especially important for dab stations that can often be on tall tables, inaccessible to guests in a wheelchair. These considerations will make a special impact on guests at your cannabis dispensary, festival, music event, or sesh. I once hosted two ladies, a mom and daughter, as part of a Las Vegas cannabis brunch event one Sunday morning in 2017. I had no clue they were hearing impaired as they approached me silently, after I was waving hello to them from across the street. I thought they must just be shy but then, once inside and seated comfortably, the daughter wrote a note saying, “We are mother & daughter. We are both deaf, and we are excited to take your cooking class 🙂 Can we get high now?” We laughed out loud and I nodded emphatically YES, while handing them a joint and a glass of homemade lemonade, infused with THC, strawberries, kiwi, mint and basil.”

Our cooking classes in Las Vegas were hosted by and were well known among Las Vegas tourists. Travelers would fly in and show up fresh off their flight with luggage still in tow. With a full dining and living room every Sunday, we served infused dinners and brunches to cannabis enthusiasts from all walks of life. We hosted tourists from as far as Shanghai, China and from all over the USA and Canada. This is where I learned how insanely diverse our cannabis community is. Each event was filled with adults ranging in ages from 21-65, who were equally as passionate and curious about cannabis cooking. We encountered and learned to accommodate conditions like celiac disease, diabetes and food allergens that are both common and lesser so. By the time each class ended, we had retired couples befriending newlyweds and planning more Vegas outings together. It’s just astonishing to see cannabis be the factor that can bring so many diverse personalities together.

The hearing impaired mother and daughter were some of the most memorable guests that I ever hosted. At the end of the day, we had about 12 pieces of printer paper scribbled, from top to bottom from all angles, with stories and questions from the day’s meal and demonstration.

This experience is what inspired me to think more inclusively about shopping at dispensaries and attending cannabis events. Long gone are the days of cannabis consumers being generalized as tie-dyed Deadheads or more unwelcome, Jimmy Buffet parrot heads. Today’s cannabis user is more aware of why they are using cannabis and we have to be more aware and respectful of the many backgrounds that medical and recreational cannabis consumers come from.

  1. When you encounter someone with disabilities “Do not ask, do you need help?” ask, “Can I help?”

This one is universal beyond the cannabis community and the gesture goes a long way when accompanied with a smile. It’s hard to admit when we need help sometimes but most of us welcome help when it’s offered openly, with a smile.

  1. When you encounter someone in the smoking circle, who is shy or non verbal, always openly invite them to share your joint. Do not assume they will ask for a toke.

  2. Give back to local dispensaries who provide extra accommodating services and care to persons who need extra care in our community. These are the true caretakers of our community.

  3. Contact your state & local representatives to ask for increased access to cannabis sponsorships for persons with disabilities.

This one is personal to us, because of the many Veterans and other valued citizens who are denied access to cannabis medicine. We would like to see cannabis be the primary form of care, rather than an alternative, for Veterans who are struggling with mental and physical pain. Even though cannabis is considered recreational in many states, there are many who rely on federal employment and government assistance, which does not allow use of cannabis.

  1. Avoid using words like stoner, hippie, burn out. These terms are not reflective of modern cannabis consumers, whether medical or recreational.

Explain to your children about the beauty in the differences of all cannabis users. Cannabis is a beautiful aspect of many healthy lives used by respected elders and professionals within our communities. Help make every cannabis user feel comfortable by proudly declaring the benefits of cannabis medicine for many different types of patients.

Michael Cassini is the founder and editor in chief of The Cannabis Cactus Magazine. He focuses on community relationships with a goal to maintain a culture of love, peace and knowledge in the cannabis industry.


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