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Many Americans reluctant to discuss pot use despite legalization


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In almost every state in America, the old laws against marijuana have been rewritten. But when it comes to talking about it, most people seem to be following an old playbook: don’t ask, don’t tell.

That’s what “CBS Mornings” co-host Tony Dokoupil discovered when he took to the streets of New York to ask people if they use pot. Many were reluctant to discuss it despite marijuana use being legal in the state.

“Just say no to drugs,” one man told him. “That’s my official position.”

And when people do open up, as some did, it turns out that laws can change in an instant, but worries about being stereotyped as a cannabis user are a lot harder to shake.

“I definitely got high a lot over COVID,” another man admitted, adding, “I mean, I’d probably feel weird if my mom saw this.”

The hesitation comes as official acceptance of the drug seems to be increasing. Companies like Amazon have stopped testing many job seekers and major sports leagues have eased restrictions. Major League Baseball no longer lists marijuana as a banned substance, the NBA has relaxed its testing requirements and the NFL is funding research on the drug’s health benefits.

There’s also a new push to legalize marijuana nationwide at the federal level after the House passed a bill that is now before the Senate.

But cannabis still carries the unmistakable whiff of stigma more than 50 years after the war on drugs began. Those who grew up in the 1980s and 90s were on a steady diet of anti-drug programs and public service announcements, and pot was a primary target of that drug war.

A lot has changed, with 18 states allowing recreational use of marijuana, and some form of legalization in 29 others, but so much has not. No one in Congress openly uses cannabis and it can be problematic when a Fortune 500 CEO lights up. After Elon Musk appeared to smoke a joint on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Tesla’s stock value temporarily plummeted.

But as legalization spreads, a growing list of celebrities and athletes have put a different face on the industry. Even former Republican House Speaker John Boehner has changed his stance on marijuana.

And now, a politician from Louisiana is going one step further. In the first-of-its-kind campaign video, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gary Chambers decided to light up to make a point.

“People just want to be within whatever the norm is in society,” he told Dokoupil. “And we haven’t figured out how to normalize this just yet.”

Some seven million people have watched his clip. Chambers sees them as seven million potential converts to a new image of cannabis. He’s already convinced his parents.

“At first my dad was like, ‘Why you smoking that dope?’ And I had to say, ‘Dad, it’s not the same as dope,'” Chambers said. “But we got to have a real conversation about it. And if my 75-year-old mom and 79-year-old father can evolve on the conversation, then I’m not really concerned what anybody else thinks about it.”

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