The Seattle weather was its usual overcast with a chance of rain on the Autumn Sunday that Oleg and myself made our way to meet Masha Brown. Masha, originally from St. Petersburg Russia and moved to West Seattle where she was raised since the age of 8, kindly opened her door with a friendly smile and an offering of hot tea and cookies that were set out on a neatly decorative plate.
Masha, an independent 27-year-old who works as a social media specialist, was open and excited for us to come to her home to discuss her cannabis use, cannabis issues, and the culture around cannabis. Masha, like myself, believes that education and normalization is an important part of how we change people’s views on the type of people who use cannabis, how cannabis makes you feel, and the why. Why use cannabis at all? Which happened to be the first question I asked our host, “I use cannabis for a variety of reasons. For inspiration when I dance, for relaxation, to open my mind, to heal”. Masha, a trained dancer, a travel enthusiast, and blogger, also said that cannabis is a great way to spend time together as friends, to tap into the emotions and the positivity within others. Which, in a way, was exactly what we were doing with Masha as we shared a joint with her.
Masha is lucky enough to be working in the cannabis industry where daily cannabis use is tolerated and understood. Even in a legal state like Washington, daily cannabis use is still viewed by some as the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” stoner, it is still treated as an illegal narcotic and even tested for in certain professions. “Working in the cannabis industry has given me the opportunity to break down the stigmas associated with the word “stoner” to exemplify that we are not only hard workers who are productive but that cannabis does not debilitate my abilities but instead amplifies them” said Masha when asked about what she thinks about the stoner stigma. She goes on to say “most ‘stoners’ look like your next-door neighbor, your kid’s teacher, and your grocery checkout girl. They are everyday people, who are working hard and the industry is growing tremendously, which proves the stigma to be wrong! We are productive members of society”.
Masha is a daily cannabis user. I’m sure to those who haven't used cannabis, that might be disconcerting to hear. When most people think of daily cannabis use they immediately compare it to the other legal drug, alcohol. In reality the two are very different and even affect different parts of the body, the natural occurring cannabinoid system vs the poisoning of the liver for one. Masha said “When I first started smoking daily I saw how much it opened my mind to be more understanding and inclusive of people different than me. Although, I have always been a pretty open, kind, and loving person; it allowed me to see people for who they really are on the inside”. She continued with stating the she felt more down to earth, more understanding, and less uptight. In a way relaxing her tendency to be so wound up and serious at times. It really seems that it has a big impact in Masha’s life, using cannabis and using it daily. I asked her how has it improved her life or even her quality of life? She simply replied “by allowing myself to be authentic to my own needs and opinions”.
I was curious about what her parents thought about her cannabis use and career as a social media specialist for a cannabis retailer. “My parents are a bit divided on the topic. My father, older and the stereotypical American growing up in the 40’s-50’s has never tried cannabis and probably never will”. She told me that her mother was an artist from Russia and her father was raised with a more old-fashioned view “his opinion of it has become less harsh and one sided, he understands it’s a part of my daily life. My mom being an artist, I think has always been more open to it”. I asked her if she thought the opinions of her dad would ever change? “With its legalization, as well as it being the reason I live independently and can pay my own bills; his opinion of it has become less harsh and one sided, he understands it’s a part of my daily life”.
Talking with Masha, sharing a bowl, and a cup of tea was refreshing. Openly talking about what the stigmas are and how to break them down started to make me feel hopeful for the future of this unexplored and rarely understood plant. Excited for what more there is to learn, to smoke, and to find other individuals who see the future of cannabis as we “normal” people do.