Step inside any marijuana dispensary across the United States, and you’ll be greeted by a crew of dedicated budtenders whose job is to sell you weed. The transaction might be similar to other retail experiences you’ve had over the years. They’ll see if they can help you find anything specific. If you’re not sure what you want, the budtender might even ask you some questions and then make some recommendations based on your response.
That’s one thing the cannabis industry has attempted over the years: To make the experience of buying legal weed kind of like walking into a pharmacy with a runny nose and asking which cold medication is suitable for that symptom. But, for the most part, marijuana isn’t on track to become medicine. It’s more on par with the likes of alcohol, an inebriant sold to adults 21 and over in both good times and bad. Americans no longer need a medical reason to smoke marijuana these days. They can do it just because it’s fun.
Perhaps this was the industry’s first mistake — making cannabis all about medicine. But that’s what advocates do, according to a recent report from Bloomberg. “First, they claim medical benefit. Then they push for broader reform.” The news source isn’t wrong.
Cannabis advocates have spent decades trying to convince the population that marijuana can treat and/or cure various conditions. But there is still little evidence proving that cannabis has widespread therapeutic value. The plant certainly isn’t in line to take the reins as the be-all, end-all drug for today’s civil society. Still, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be legal for adult Americans to play with.
Marijuana is an intoxicating drug that 91% of the American population now believe should be legal. However, there are still plenty of naysayers out there who think increased access will only sabotage public health. They are concerned that there will be an influx of disease and mental health issues as legalization spreads nationwide. Therefore, groups skittish about legal pot feel it is the responsibility of dispensaries in legal states to ensure that people understand what they are getting into.
But should budtenders really be preaching to cannabis customers about the perils of pot? A new study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs suggests that they should.
Researchers at the University of Washington found that while budtenders were good about educating their customers over the benefits of weed, they didn’t warn them about all the evils that could arise. The report shows that most budtenders stopped short of explaining the potential hazards of marijuana products to customers, mostly because they didn’t feel it was their place to do so. “Budtenders did not believe their job involved discussing use during pregnancy or while driving or safe storage. They prioritized customers’ autonomy over education on these topics, and they did not necessarily consider these behaviors to be harmful,” the report states.
Cannabis industry warriors argue that’s because the drug is more about profit than the health of the American public.
Legalization is a lot of things.
One thing it’s not is oriented to public health. https://t.co/lr8Hbv5J75
— Kevin Sabet (@KevinSabet) May 12, 2021
“Legalization is a lot of things,” Tweeted Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “One thing it’s not is oriented to public health.”
But is this really a fair assessment of what’s happening out there with legal weed? Probably not. After all, adults who buy alcohol and cigarettes are not given the third degree by clerks at convenience stores and liquor outlets about how those products can cause cancer, liver damage, and car crashes. If they did, those people would likely be fired.
Everyone who uses these products understands that they aren’t necessarily good for them, but it’s their freedom as tax-paying adults to smoke and drink however they see fit. Marijuana is not any different. The only thing that creates an illusionary distinction is that the cannabis industry has spent so much time touting weed’s medicinal benefits that dispensaries are often seen more like pharmacies than liquor stores.
And while some pot shops are designed to give off that “medical” vibe, they are still just selling marijuana. Not even pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, both of which sell alcohol and cigarettes, make it a point to advise customers over the detriments of those products. Adults are responsible for their own education. Budtenders should no more be explaining the hazards of getting high than they should be providing medical advice.