Key takeaways.

  • When should you tell your colleagues or family you use cannabis?

    You can't keep it a secret from work if you get drug tested. But you don't have to reveal it in a workplace or family environment that isn't supportive of your choices!

  • Should you keep it from your partner?

    If you've just started dating someone, you don't have to tell them you use cannabis right away. But if you plan on dating them for longer, it's better sooner than later.

  • What's the rule of thumb?

    When you're talking about cannabis with judgemental people, try to be as educational as possible but don't open yourself up to ridicule over your own free choices.

The judgemental, propagandist days of cannabis are over — or are they? On the one hand, cannabis users worldwide are jumping for joy at the turn of events that cannabis law has taken in the last decade. On the other hand, it’s not like we are ignorant to the fact that a lot of the mentality of pre-legalisation remains in the undergrowth.

That undergrowth is your boss’s idea of cannabis — or your parent’s idea of cannabis. A law changes overnight, but an entire culture’s attitude towards something doesn’t change overnight. So how private should you keep your weed consumption?

We know this is a pertinent question because cannabis enthusiasts are of all varieties; the entrepreneur, the weekend smoker, the video-game variety, the social user and the medicinal user. And we know that all of these different types of cannabis users are subject to different “etiquettes” when it comes to their cannabis consumption.

If you’re a professional, is it appropriate to tell your colleagues you smoke? If you’re a weekend smoker, do you really have to tell your cannabis-loathing parents that you smoke? That’s what this article is all about. We’re getting into some of the issues surrounding privacy of cannabis use and how this affects our lives.

There’s no privacy about your cannabis consumption if you get drug tested for work.

Before we talk about some of the social implications of revealing the fact that you use cannabis, let’s talk about some of the logistical and legal implications.

To start with, if you have to get drug tested for work or any other reason, it’s pretty much impossible to keep your cannabis use from the authorities. Obviously there are ways around this, but they’re even more illegal than using cannabis, and we can’t condone trying to lie on a drug test.

This is a really big caveat, isn’t it? For the handful of people out there who undergo mandatory drug screening, there’s unfortunately very little scope for privacy about your cannabis use. You could theoretically keep it a secret from your friends and family, but it wouldn’t be a secret from the authorities. And in most scenarios, they’re the ones you want to be keeping it from. 

Professionals and white collars; the etiquette of the cannabis conversation.

A man wearing a suit wears a weed leaf as a brooch on his pocket.

The scenario: You’re a professional who works in an office for a successful company. You spend most of your day dealing with clients, in meetings, signing contracts and making deals. When your work day is over, your favourite thing to do is go home and smoke a joint. After-work drinks are annoying because you care less about drinking than you do about using cannabis. Plus, you never get to take clients out to the best local dispensary — it’s always the finest bar or restaurant. So it’s not like you get to enjoy cannabis with clients.

What’s amazing is that this scenario is more common than you think. Since the legalization of cannabis, it has become clear that the demographics who like cannabis are varied. Whereas once, we thought only Dorito-munching, WOW-playing teenagers smoked weed, we now know that weed users often fit profiles completely different to the couch stoner.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re even questioning whether or not your boss or colleagues might be into weed, you’re better off leaving it off the table unless you want to defend it to the death.

It also depends who you are. How high up are you? How at-risk is your job and workplace happiness if you tell your colleagues that you use cannabis? Are you willing to lose some workplace friends for being open about your cannabis use? How far out of the box are you willing to go with your work colleagues?

It’s important to recognize that in this scenario, a big player in the decision making is how much you keep your personal life separate from your work life. We know this is different from person to person. While some people’s social lives are heavily intertwined with their work lives, there are others who prefer to keep it completely separate.

In the event that your work and personal life are completely separate, this conundrum is less applicable. You don’t talk about your personal leisures with your colleagues. But in the event that you spend quite a lot of time socialising with your work crew, then the decision making is more nuanced.

At a company event, keep your joints out of sight unless you know the odd few people who love to use cannabis. When it happens that you find out that there are one or two other colleagues who also like to secretly get on the green, they become your partners in crime. Don’t smoke without them — and there’s always strength in numbers.

The daters and lovers; when to break the news about your love for cannabis.

Two people on an awkward first date.

The scenario: You’re single and you’re ready to mingle. You’re open to meeting new people even if they don’t smoke weed, which means you sometimes end up going on dates with people who aren’t into cannabis. When you’re feeling nervous or anxious before a date, you take a small dose of cannabis to calm yourself down and start feeling sexy. 

This scenario is so common since cannabis legalisation that we put together a whole article on cannabis and dating. For those who only smoke cannabis socially or on the weekend, this issue seems less important because the vast majority of people don’t have a major issue with infrequent cannabis use. But what about for those of us using it therapeutically? Those of us who need it to get to sleep or who suffer from anxiety?

The double-standard is that if you told someone on a first date that you take Zoloft for anxiety, it wouldn’t be treated like a big deal. But if you admitted that you used cannabis everyday for anxiety, it might be. That is exactly the kind of judgemental undergrowth that still occurs in the 21st century.

As a rule of thumb, if you really, really like the person you’re on a date with, the sooner you tell them the better. This gets the whole situation out of the way at the beginning and you don’t have to feel awkward about your cannabis use. If you’re still unsure about how involved you want to be with this person, then you don’t have to disclose any super personal information too quickly.

Given that the dating situation is more personal than the professional situation we mentioned earlier, there’s a lot more wiggle room for communication. If you’re a bonafide cannabis advocate then you could use it as an opportunity to educate. It doesn’t mean it’ll be received well, but it’s your feelings that will take the brunt of the impact — not your career, social life, or legal standing.

The thing about intimate relationships is that the further you go along, the deeper skeletons get buried in the closet. It would be pretty embarrassing if 3 months down the track into an intimate relationship your partner discovers that you use cannabis and is totally appalled by it. When it comes to dating, earlier is better.

At a social event, you should take full advantage of the fact that there are lots of people around and all of them are potential mates. Just start smoking a joint (so long as the social event allows it), and watch all of the cannabis loving people come flocking towards you. At a social event, it’s much easier to weed out the ones who aren’t interested in your cannabis use.

The family people; does your family have to know that you smoke weed?

A family including small children at a bar drinking beer together.

The question of family and privacy of cannabis use is a multifaceted issue. There are so many scenarios that apply here:

  • You’re a parent with children who are old enough to understand that you use cannabis and you don’t know whether you need to talk to them about it or not
  • You’re a cannabis user whose parents don’t know, and you’re not sure how they’ll receive it
  • You’re an aunt or uncle or extended family member and there are other extended family members who may or may not want to participate in your love for cannabis

It’s always going to be the most complicated with family because this is also where most of our cultural traditions manifest. For example, if you come from an ethnic family who prohibits cannabis use then it’s going to be a different conversation and thought process than a parent raising children in a self-sustainable community.

Why might you want to have this conversation with your family in the first place?

Depending on how much cannabis has become a part of your life, it might just feel necessary to tell them. The people it’s hardest to keep a secret from is family. They know us the best, they know our personality traits, and they can tell when we’re high! 

You might want to have the conversation so that there’s no more elephant in the room. Or so that you can actually stop keeping a secret because it’s exhausting. Or because you don’t feel like it’s necessary to keep something so magical and effective for you a secret from the people you are the closest to.

The many ways to open the cannabis conversation with family.

There is so much tact in having sensitive conversations with family members. It’s important to think of who you’re talking to. Are you explaining it to a child or to an elderly person? Is it a sibling or is it a parent or older relative? What’s the best way you can communicate with them to help them understand your position in all of it?

If explaining to a child, it can be helpful to begin the process of education. You can explain that cannabis is a plant a lot like mint or sunflowers. It can be used as food and medicine etc., and you can help your child to understand some of the reasons you use it and what it helps you for. 

If you’re explaining to a parent or elderly person, it’s important to be patient. Understand that it takes a long time to undo an entire generation of cannabis propaganda. Do it in small doses. Show them some of the scientific research and help them understand that we know much more about cannabis than we did during Reefer Madness.

If you’re talking to a sibling, keep it short and sweet. The thing about our siblings is that they usually feel less obliged to us than our parents or children do. They are more like friends who we didn’t get to choose and this means that they are sometimes the most vocal about their disapproval. If you know that they will never understand your cannabis use, maybe it’s just about breaking the news but not elaborating at all. Maybe it’s about short bursts of information that aren’t overwhelming.

You don’t have to open yourself up to ridicule and harassment.

A woman with flowers in her hair smoking a cannabis pipe, a collage

All of the information we’ve given is awesome if the people on the receiving end of the conversation are actually open, understanding, and reasonable people. But there isn’t that much you can do if your boss or parent or sibling simply thinks cannabis comes from the devil. When people are stubborn, it can be impossible to bring their minds around into a more open place.

If that’s the case, know that you don’t have to open yourself up for ridicule or harassment. Part of cannabis etiquette is also knowing that your choices are your choices. Cannabis legalisation is all about free choice and you don’t have to be ridiculed because of a free choice you made to use or experiment with cannabis.

If not telling authorities or family figures in your life makes you feel the safest, that’s okay too. Sometimes, that’s the only way to keep the peace. 

Who knows about your cannabis consumption? Do you keep it private, is it fully out in the open, or do you only share it with a select few? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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