Op Ed: We Need a Real Public Conversation About Consumption

Todd Mitchem argues for a new model of public consumption.
Todd Mitchem argues for a new model of public consumption.
Cannabis consumption, the dark secret, is a struggle all marijuana consumers face at some point. From sneaking a toke in your car's front seat, to watching your friends drink wine while you wait to go vape in a bathroom, to attempting the perfect timing of your edible just before a concert, cannabis consumers face this challenge on an almost daily basis. Frankly, none of the present solutions proposed are even coming close to managing the real issue, nor are they creating a dialogue that will ultimately solve the problem for locals or tourists all over America.

As a government affairs and community outreach specialist in the cannabis industry, I have heard all manner of solutions. From Denver's public-consumption initiative to the constant barrage of failed consumption legislation around the country, all I witness are Band-Aids being placed on a more significant illness. I see firsthand the frustration by regulators and officials who are dealing with bad initiatives that were handed to them. All of these “quick fixes” for consumption are limited, because none of them solve the problem for consumers: We are normal and want to consume safely with our the open.

Many of the proposed solutions either require me, a dedicated father of three, loving husband and business professional, to hide in a dark, seedy location off some back street, or some other alternative where I can’t bring my non-cannabis friends because they don’t want to hang out in a cannabis-only environment. Either way, I as the consumer have no choices and am still trapped by outdated rules, while my booze-drinking counterparts get to run amok in restaurants, bars, concerts, kids' events, parties, private events, mobile “bike bars,” sporting events, outdoor festivals...and the list goes on and on. While I am subjected to being forced into undesirable situations for my far safer product, anyone who likes to binge-drink can do so wherever they feel like it. I wish these other initiatives would find success, but they won't because they don't incorporate the mainstream cannabis consumption issues. Most of the new solutions also do not address the fact that, until I can eat a meal with my friends and consume some form of cannabis product while they drink booze, we are not making progress.

Here is how we could solve this problem and finally start to have a real conversation for all types of consuming adults:

1) Perception

We are normal. Marijuana is not some horrific substance that ruins people's lives. In fact, my wife and I have stopped all alcohol consumption and replaced it with cannabis. Why? We hate the way a night of drinking makes us feel. From the inevitable hangover the next day to a general sense of not feeling well during drinking, booze does not live up to our standard of thriving. Instead, we love the feeling of cannabis. It uplifts us, never leaves us with a hangover, and the next day, we still get a ridiculous amount of work done. In fact, I would argue that in general, we in the industry, marijuana company workers and leaders, have achieved more in business since 2014 than most companies or industries realize in ten years. Most of us are cannabis consumers. We are normal, so the perception must shift.

2) Integration is the key

Am I suggesting that we as a society should let people bong-hit in the local pub or roll a joint that they smoke at a restaurant after their meal? No! But what I am suggesting is that cannabis, in general, does not need its special location for consumption. We as a society need to realize that there are many forms of cannabis consumption that could be normalized in our culture. Infused, low-dose beverages could be served alongside other types of adult drinks. Edibles could also be served safely, as could food infused with low amounts of cannabis. The key is integration.

Last summer I went to a gathering with a few friends. Instead of beers or a bottle of wine, I consumed a 10mg Root Beer from The Green Solution. While I watched my friends becoming more and drunk, I, the cannabis consumer, was relaxed and having a great time. The next day I was up at 6:30 a.m. and at the gym by 7, with no hangover or adverse effects. We as a society of regulators and consumers need to start pushing for full integration of cannabis into all facets of our adult societal framework. It's time.

3) Stop building bad models
This is my final suggestion for anyone attempting to build models for governments to consider or for the industry to push. Please stop trying to cram a square peg into a hookah-shaped hole. As consumers, we don't need or want to drive to a dirty location where we cannot enjoy a meal while consuming. We are tired of being told to stop vaping at a concert when no one gets a contact high, but the guy next to us just vomited his nine beers and two shots on our feet. I will shop at my favorite dispensary for the service, the quality of product and the care that goes into each harvest. I should then be able to consume those products safely where I want and within reason.

Let me restate: While I agree that smoking is not something we need in public, vaping, sodas, edibles and the countless alternative forms of consumption should be allowed everywhere alcohol is currently consumed. The model should be that if I can order a glass of wine or a beer somewhere, I should darn well be able to instead order an infused root beer or ginger ale with cannabis in it, especially at dinner while I eat my kale and spinach salad with friends at a restaurant. Start to focus on this model instead of a more limiting one, where I am forced elsewhere.

click to enlarge Todd Mitchem argues for a new model of public consumption. - DACORUMSTRATEGIES.COM
Todd Mitchem argues for a new model of public consumption.
I live in Colorado, and we are independent. We made cannabis legal for every adult before any other state or country. We are the shining tip of the spear! Our amazing regulators, government agencies and legislature have done a great job regulating and making sense of a new industry. Consumers love the products, the different companies and the privilege of consumption. We have seen drops in crime, drops in teen use, drops in opioid addiction, less violent traffic accidents, happier veterans, consumers with terrible illnesses make full recoveries, over 35,000 new jobs created and, of course, billions in taxed revenue for the state. By the way, all of that happened in less than five years! Yet I, as a proud cannabis consumer, still need to hide my consumption from the "public." This hiding in the shadows is nonsense. Our firm will be working to change this perception, and I will do my part to normalize consumption.

Until we can all meet up at a concert, have a selection of beverages, edibles, etc., provided for by the marijuana industry on site, ready for public consumption, we are failing all marijuana consumers. It's time for a change. I encourage you all to write your legislator, talk to regulators, contact me, get involved. Let's make a statement that we are coming out of the shadows as consumers and that we are ready to be a part of the dialogue for real evolution. Let's grow toward normalization together, and in a way that won't go up in smoke.

Todd Mitchem is a government affairs and community outreach leader in the cannabis industry; you can reach him directly at [email protected] You can respond to this piece by posting a comment or sending an email to [email protected]

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