Yesterday, on the Today show, Matt Lauer interviewed the editor of Marie Claire magazine and another woman about the use of marijuana among female professionals. This interview was inspired by an article on the same subject in the current issue of Marie Claire entitled, "Stiletto Stoners."
Neither the interview nor the story contained any serious "reefer madness" claims, as mainstream articles about marijuana use usually do. Rather, these were straightforward conversations about women who simply use marijuana at the end of the day to unwind and relax, either by themselves or with their friends or families.
Interestingly, there was a common theme running through all of the interviews in the article and on the Today show: these women not only enjoy using marijuana, but they consistently described it as a preferred alternative to alcohol. In a sense, they were saying, "Society accepts that people are going to have a drink -- or many drinks -- after work to unwind. I don't want to do what society suggests I do. I find marijuana to be a more enjoyable and less detrimental alternative, and that it is why I use it instead."
It is hard to overstate the importance of this burgeoning "Stiletto Stoner" movement. Of course, for decades there have been hard-working professionals who would hit a joint or a bong after work or on the weekend. Perhaps you knew people like this yourself, but considered them to be more of an exception to the rule. Or you thought they were hiding some "dirty little secret." Maybe you had your own dirty little secret.
The zeitgeist-shifting aspect of this media coverage is not simply that these women are "coming out of the closet" -- although that is great on its own; it is that they are uniformly asserting their desire to use marijuana instead of alcohol because of its relative benefits. One woman noted that she feels better the next morning when she uses marijuana instead of alcohol; another mentioned that marijuana is cheaper than alcohol.
You see, if we are going to change marijuana laws in this country, we need the public to see marijuana for what it is: a relatively benign intoxicant that millions of Americans use instead of alcohol for recreation and relaxation.
As things stand, despite the fact that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, we steer people toward alcohol instead. We do it through our laws, as well as through employment policies and professional licensing standards. The disincentives to using marijuana openly, in a manner similar to alcohol, are evident in the Marie Claire article itself. The women in that piece may have come out of the closet, but they did so using fake names. And the "stiletto stoner" interviewed on the Today show did so in the dark to conceal her identity.
It is time for people to stand up and defend the right of all Americans to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that is what they prefer. That is the underlying motivation behind Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, a book I co-authored with Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project and Paul Armentano of NORML. The book not only includes background information about marijuana and alcohol, but also includes talking points useful in convincing friends and family members that people should not be punished for making the safer choice.
Whether you are a stiletto stoner, briefcase bong-hitter, or sympathetic abstainer, it is time to bring this entire conversation out of the shadows. Thanks to Marie Claire and the Today show for getting this ball rolling. Now, let's keep the momentum going.
Mason Tvert is the executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and the co-author of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? (Chelsea Green, August 2009).
Follow Mason Tvert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SAFERchoice