Ambassadors: Found on the Ground
One could spend years tearing down prejudices, educating ignorances and bursting stereotypes before finally convincing a friend or family member to open their mind; it takes only one careless moment to close it again. Like it or not, people are more likely to listen to their emotional responses than they are to reason and few experiences can evoke an emotional response more readily than finding a piece of marijuana litter on the ground.
It may seem innocuous enough. After all, it’s just one piece of trash. How could a stray blunt wrapper or dispensary bag cause that much harm? Shouldn’t everyone just get over it?
The answer lies in the workings of the human mind. Many Americans, especially members of the older generations, grew up in a media environment which constantly affirmed their beliefs that pot was dangerous and that any increase in its prevalence was a grave danger to the country. Now, doctors have reached a broad consensus that historical claims of the supposed harms of cannabis use were greatly exaggerated, but a mind shaped by such beliefs does not change so rapidly.
Millions of Americans read new discoveries of the medical benefits of cannabis with a kind of dazed disbelief: while unsure of how to refute such evidence, they are left with only a vague feeling that something is going wrong with the world.
Upon finding a stray baggie or an empty box of rolling papers, many find that vague feeling activated into overdrive. It’s easier to believe that the historical “enemy” has done their community harm upon discovering evidence of that harm, no matter how slight it may be in the grand scheme of things. They fixate on the offense; and in the midst of such fixation, the cannabis reform community loses a potential ally.
So it is not enough for the ambassadors of this movement to merely speak truth and expose lies; they also have to learn to pick up after themselves, just as mother taught.