Despite cannabis being legal in some form in more than half the country, its Federally illegal status persists and for some, so do longstanding social stigmas. It can be difficult to tell your truth when you’re worried about being arrested, losing your job or your children, or simply being judged by the important people in your life. But coming out presents the opportunity to educate others about cannabis while proving by example that stoner stereotypes are a thing of the past.

So I asked a few friends to share with me how they came out about taking cannabis and if their stories prove anything, it’s that choosing when and how to do it is determined by only one thing: what’s best for you.

The Direct Approach

Maybe for you the plan is to sit the family down, look everyone right in the eye and tell them you take cannabis. This was Jen’s approach. The “good girl” from Tennessee smoked cannabis since she was 18 and her family had no idea. “I did everything within my power to hide it,” she said, a decision made easier after she turned 22 and moved to California. Then 3 years ago Jen realized cannabis was more than a way to get high. It offered relief for the painful migraines, stress and anxiety she suffered from regularly, and even helped wean her off the Xanax her doctor had prescribed. When her parents came to town for Thanksgiving 2 years ago, Jen decided if was officially time to break the news.

Her mother had been an RN so Jen chose to focus the conversation on the medical benefits of cannabis. “I told my mom and stepdad that I take cannabis to help my migraines in the same way that they take pills to address their ailments,” she said. The approach worked. Jen’s mom engaged in the conversation and asked a lot of questions before the real breakthrough came: she was ready to try cannabis for herself after decades of being against it. That night, Jen smoked with her parents for the very first time and they loved it. Now, they look forward to one day being able to grow it themselves in Tennessee. “Cannabis helps me with my patience, it helps me with stress,” Jen says. “Now I want to help my mom and stepdad consider cannabis to replace their pills.”

Advocating for Others

Despite not partaking herself, Renee always had a live-and-let-live mindset when it came to others taking cannabis. Then last year, her 77-year old aunt started experiencing debilitating pain due to rheumatoid arthritis. Aunt Dot was an RN for over 60 years and had always been highly independent and active. Now, she was in so much pain that she spent all day and night in her recliner because moving was too uncomfortable. When her aunt’s demeanor became more cantankerous, Renee felt compelled to seek solutions. “I wanted Dot to keep the active lifestyle that she always had,” she says.

Renee educated herself about cannabis by researching and speaking with friends in the industry before sharing her findings with her mother, Aunt Dot’s sister. When they both determined that CBD might be helpful, they approached Dot. “We told her, since you’re uncomfortable maybe cannabis will help you improve,” Renee said, and it didn’t take long for Dot to come around. “She wanted her life back.”

Renee and her mom took a trip to the dispensary for the first time – no other family members were willing to go – and were immediately impressed with the pleasant environment and friendly customer service. They came home with capsules, a tincture and CBD-infused soaking salts to address Dot’s pain and swelling. The results were immediate: the swelling had gone down and Dot was able to bend her fingers after just 2 days. “I think I want to be on this now,” Dot said, and ever since she has been open to trying cannabis in different forms to help her symptoms. Now that there’s no denying that cannabis has improved Dot’s quality of life, Renee is now exploring cannabis to address her own wellness needs.

Letting Things Unfold Organically

For some of us, coming out about cannabis ends up (thankfully) being fairly uneventful. Through casual mentions in conversation or simply living life and saying nothing can be incredibly effective ways of getting the message across.

For Weedguide’s own Sarah D., working at a startup that centered on cannabis presented a challenge. “My parents are pretty conservative,” she says, “and although they had always been supportive of the work I do, I felt that my working in the cannabis industry was going to throw them for a loop.” With freshly printed business cards in her pocket (“Somehow this made it seem more legit,” she explained), Sarah joined her parents for a beer and found herself casually explaining why she’d been so busy in recent months. Through talking about her work, Sarah was able to share her knowledge about how cannabis helps people. Concerned but intrigued, her parents asked questions and in the months that followed, continued to maintain interest in Sarah’s work. Now, they have an entirely different outlook. “My parents have become pretty big advocates,” Sarah says. “They occasionally tell their baby-boomer friends and even strangers that their daughter helps make a marijuana app.”

My approach was even more casual: I pretty much said nothing. When I started working in the industry, all topical samples I received went directly to my mother to help her arthritis. Mobility has always been an issue for her and I knew she was doing everything she could to avoid taking opiates for the pain. By educating her about cannabis in such a way that she was able to personally experience its healing properties without getting high, mom’s old assumptions about cannabis faded away. I admit that I chose a more passive route slightly out of fear, but I also believe that not explaining the role of cannabis in my life basically reiterated its normalcy. Cannabis isn’t a big deal to me, therefore it’s not a big deal to her.

Whether or not to come out to loved ones about your relationship with cannabis is a deeply personal decision. As the narrative about cannabis evolves and people undergo their own experiences, many are beginning to feel empowered about sharing their stories with family and friends. It can be a deeply powerful experience regardless of the outcome.

But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember: the only person who ultimately should feel peaceful about your relationship with cannabis is you.

Kaisha is a content writer specializing in the cannabis industry. Judging by her social media, she’s super into cats and Jeff Goldblum.