Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Cannabis has gone mainstream. Medical marijuana is legal in over half the states. Also, recreational use is legal in 11 states as well as in the District of Columbia and all of Canada.

Cannabidiol (CBD) hemp products containing less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are legal at the federal level, and widely available online and in retail outlets in almost all states. Compliant CBD hemp products should not get you high (cause impairment or intoxication), but offer many health benefits.

As legalization has spread, so has acceptance. According to a November 2019 Pew Research poll,  67% of Americans say marijuana should be federally legalized. This support exists across all age groups except for the Silent Generation, made up of people over the age of 75.

The shifting public attitudes might not be reflected in your own home, though.

How do you talk to your significant other if you’re curious to try cannabis but don’t know what they’ll think? This can be especially tricky when your partner has negative experiences, fear or preconceptions about cannabis.

Know Why You Want to Use Cannabis

Before you broach the topic with your partner, take stock of why you want to try cannabis. Are you “canna-curious” and interested in seeing what options exist in the legal marketplace? For example, some people are turning to THC-infused drinks and other products as alternatives to wine or beer.

Many people also seek out cannabis based on growing research about the plant’s health benefits.

Remember that cannabis is not a cure-all or magic pill. However, it can serve as a powerful tool.

Anticipate your Partner’s Concerns

Many of us had less-than-ideal experiences with marijuana in the past, when it was illegal everywhere. Product quality was iffy at best, and you never quite knew what was in the flower (buds) you were smoking. If you got caught, you faced legal charges, fines and even jail time, along with a criminal record.

Keep this recent history in mind when you bring up cannabis to your partner. Even someone with past cannabis experience may respond with skepticism at first, given the nature of their previous experiences.

You can address these concerns by talking about how state regulations provide more oversight and consistency in products sold at legal dispensaries.

While CBD products sold in retail outlets and online are not subject to this same level of oversight, most high-quality manufacturers provide Certificates of Analysis (COAs) with test results for their products to see exactly what makes up that particular product. 

Stigma: The Elephant in the Room… On the Couch Eating Chips

Cannabis still suffers from stereotypes, despite the fact that more athletes, businesspeople, and other high achievers are openly embracing the plant.

When you tell your partner you want to try cannabis, they may immediately picture you glued to the sofa with a bag of Doritos. Those old stereotypes are tough to shake!

Dr. Dave Gordon, founder of 4Pillars Health & Wellness, addressed some of these stereotypes in his recent interview with Leaf411.

“A lot of the cannabis propaganda that people have heard over time is just wrong,” he says. “The perfect example is when someone asks, ‘Is cannabis going to cause me to lose my brain cells?’ … Actually, the science shows that cannabis is probably going to protect your brain.”

You can read more from Dr. Dave on common misconceptions and what the research says about cannabis here.

Putting Cannabis in Context of Lifestyle Changes

When talking with your partner, put your interest in cannabis in context with other areas of your life, explaining how it fits with other goals and priorities. For example, if your goal is to improve your sleep, share other lifestyle changes you’ll be trying along with cannabis, like limiting screen time before bed.

Also, you can point out that while we try many new things in our lives, very few (if any) become all-encompassing. For example, when you took up running, it didn’t mean you were suddenly skipping work to spend all day out on the trails. Your experience with cannabis will likely follow a similar path, becoming a balanced activity, not a problematic one. 

Religion and Cannabis

Cannabis prohibition in the United States has always carried a strong moral undercurrent, using language such as “devil’s lettuce,” and stereotyping cannabis users as lazy stoners.

Most of today’s religions are against recreational use. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is where many religions (but not all!) have shown more openness.

If your partner’s concerns are based on religion, try to understand their perspective. They may be concerned that you are not treating your body with respect, or that your use will be excessive and sinful.

If you’re only interested in using cannabis for recreational purposes, you’ll have a tough argument to make.

However, if you’re seeking cannabis for health purposes, consider framing your perspective to address your partner’s concerns. For example, talk about how you are seeking alternatives to prescription painkillers that have harmful side effects.

Also, you can point out that your goal is to heal, not to get high, and what that means for you.

For example, you might be starting with CBD hemp products that are federally legal and have no intoxicating effects. If you’re using products with THC, you might talk about how you plan to start low and go slow with dosing, an approach recommended by Leaf411 nurses, Dr. Dave and other cannabis health practitioners. A big misconception is that you need to feel high (intoxicated) to reap the medicinal benefits. This is not the case for most people using THC.

Talking About Substance Abuse Concerns

Substance abuse is a complex issue. You only need to look as far as a set of siblings, where one sibling becomes an alcoholic while the other does not, to see it’s not just a matter of genetics or upbringing. 

Your partner may understandably be concerned if they’ve had friends or family members who abused marijuana. Anything can have an abuse potential, from food to alcohol to cannabis, so explaining your intention is key.

It doesn’t help, either, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin, despite significant evidence that it is not nearly as harmful and has much lower potential for addiction. Part of the Schedule 1 designation is based on the FDA’s position that marijuana has no medical value.

This designation, ironically enough, limits the abilities of academic and medical professionals to conduct research on cannabis’s potential health benefits.

In other words, the FDA requires clinical research to support moving a drug down to a lower level on the schedule; however, due to FDA restrictions, it’s extremely difficult for researchers to conduct the very studies that the FDA requires.

Can someone become dependent on cannabis? According to Dr. Robert Navarra, a psychologist at the Gottman Institute, substance use and addiction fall on a spectrum. About 9% of people who use cannabis will develop cannabis use disorder which means they are dependent on—but not addicted to—cannabis. To put that in perspective, researchers estimate that approximately 30% of Americans have alcohol use disorders.

Respond to your partner’s concerns by talking about what your overall goals are in using cannabis, as well as how this plant-based tool fits in with other strategies you’re trying. If you’re embracing the start low and go slow approach, you can share that knowledge with your partner as well. Your goal is to find the right amount for your purposes.

CBD and Marijuana Health Concerns

In January 2020, new research came out from the American College of Cardiology showing that cannabis may interact with certain cardiac medications.

If your partner saw that study in the news, or other past news about the FDA questioning the safety of CBD, they might have hesitations, especially if you regularly take prescription medications.

We agree that it’s imperative to check with a medical professional before adding any new medicine to your ongoing regimen. You can check out our recent post on the subject here.

Our Leaf411 registered nurses are also available to talk to you or your partner about potential medication interactions with cannabis.

Legal Cannabis and the Workplace

First, we’ll say that if you live in a state without legal recreational or medical marijuana, then we strongly encourage you to limit yourself to CBD hemp products which are federally legal. CBD hemp products may provide many cannabis plant benefits, minus the intoxicating effects of THC.

CBD hemp is also legal at the state level nearly everywhere. (Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota are the exception.)

Even in a fully-legal state with recreational and medical marijuana, your partner may have legal concerns.

For example, a med card or state legalization doesn’t serve as a defense against positive drug test results in the workplace.

If you work in a job that requires drug testing, then we recommend looking for CBD products that clearly state “No THC” on their label. Verify the product quality and contents, as well, by reviewing the manufacturer’s COA listing the lab test results. Be sure to share this information with your partner as well, so they can understand how you’re taking steps to use safe products.

Is your partner worried that secondhand marijuana smoke could cause them to fail a drug test? This is a common concern. We’ve reviewed the research and haven’t been able to find any published studies that passive or incidental exposure will result in a positive drug test.

Offer Cannabis Resources and Education

Does your partner know the difference between full-spectrum CBD hemp containing under 0.3% THC versus marijuana products with higher THC levels? Do they understand that you don’t need to smoke marijuana for it to be effective?

Check in with your partner to make sure that you’re both talking about the same thing. They might assume that you plan to smoke or vape marijuana flower that will get you high, while you’re actually planning to start with an edible or oil that contains more CBD than THC.

Your first instinct might be to answer your partner’s questions with “Google it.” However, there are thousands of websites offering misinformation on both sides of the cannabis debate.

That’s one reason we formed the Leaf411 nonprofit hotline—to provide a trustworthy resource to the public, providing medically-sound, balanced information.

Our Leaf411 library is a good starting point, offering a list of resources providing a balanced view.

Our registered nurses who staff the FREE Leaf411 hotline are also a great resource. You don’t have to be a cannabis user to call us. We take calls from many non-cannabis users, including spouses, family members, and clinicians who are simply seeking more information to help their patients.

Creating Shared Expectations Around Cannabis Use

It’s important to talk to your partner about how, when and where you plan to use CBD hemp or marijuana, coming up with a plan that both of you can live with.

Some people simply don’t like the smell of marijuana. They may worry that it will cause everyone in the house to smell like they’ve been smoking, or that neighbors will notice the smell. This is a legitimate concern!

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to smoking, including vapes which produce less odor, as well as edibles, tinctures, and even transdermal and topical products.

Other areas you’ll want to discuss are listed below. Your decisions will likely be shaped in part by why you’re using CBD hemp or marijuana. For example, if your goal is to reduce social anxiety, then it won’t be especially helpful if your partner insists that you only use cannabis at home after everyone else is in bed.

Kids: Whether or not to use cannabis around your children is both a highly personal decision, and also a hotly-debated issue. Pediatricians express concerns about secondhand smoke, as well as risks with parents being intoxicated with any substances, including cannabis, while caregiving. On the other hand, more parents like Kaycee Bawdon are speaking out about responsibly using cannabis while parenting. Many parents point out that drinking alcohol around kids is widely accepted, even though it is a more dangerous substance. As a starting point for discussing this issue with your partner, check out this article to read rules different parents have set around using cannabis at home.

Visitors: For many of us, marijuana was a common presence in our younger days. Visit a friend’s dorm room, and they might offer you a hit off their bong. Of course, many dorm room relics no longer fit in our lives.

While many adults enjoy the social aspects of modern cannabis culture, others prefer to keep their use private. Talk to your partner about how to handle this issue in your home, recognizing that different situations may call for different rules.

A Few Final Thoughts on the Importance of Trust

Your partner may not be the biggest fan of cannabis, but hopefully they will respect and support your right to use CBD hemp or marijuana products in a legal, safe, responsible manner. You can help the cause, so to speak, by being truthful about your use. Nothing creates mistrust faster than sneaking around and lying.

Respect is a two-way street. If your partner chooses to not use CBD hemp or marijuana, it’s important for you to respect their decision. Resist the urge to pressure them to try your new vape “just one time” even if you think they’d love it.

Need Help Starting the Conversation?

Our Leaf411 cannabis-trained nurses are available to provide balanced education and guidance on safe, legal cannabis use. We’ve even had couples call and put us on speaker phone, so they could both be part of the conversation!

We encourage you or your partner to call us with your questions at 1-844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.