Last month, Melissa Etheridge gave an interview to Yahoo on the benefits of cannabis in which she said she smoked with her two oldest children. Her hope was to destigmatize cannabis use. Many people took exception to the fact that she encouraged her children to smoke anything. Melissa responded by saying, “You know, my kids grew up in Southern California. It’s not a crazy thing. It was a decision, it’s not something I do a lot at all; hardly!” Apparently the ‘I live in LA and we’re all wacky here’ line still didn’t fly with folks so she sat down with People and gave then an exclusive – and lengthy – interview about how we all got her point wrong. You can read all her comments here, I’ve edited them for length.
Do you regret talking about smoking with your kids? I probably should have thought twice about actually mentioning my children. I understand, always, in these social norm issues, when you bring children in, that’s where people go crazy. Like gays: “It’s all great — but what about the children?” And we’ve shown, I’ve shown, that I’m raising four children; I have raised two, and I’m still raising two. So it was my mistake to say, “Yes, I’ve smoked with my children.” Which makes it seem like I sit down and smoke with my little 10-year-olds, which I do not. I want to be empathic in saying I do not believe in casual cannabis use in children or teenagers — I am not advocating casual cannabis use at all. I do not think it is healthy for children under 18.
When I said I have smoked with my children, I have two adult children. My oldest daughter attends Columbia University. She is an amazing student, with honors, just doing very, very well in college. I couldn’t be prouder. She is not a smoker, and I never meant to paint her as such, and I want to get that record straight: While there was a moment in our household that we shared a smoke, she is not by any definition a smoker, and it does her a disservice for me to just say something so casually that one would interpret that as her being a smoker. My son, who is 18 now, is a different story. It involves things like anxiety and not being able to sleep. He has a doctor’s recommendation to smoke. I don’t need to go into our private issues with my son, but that is a whole other conversation; that’s a whole other thing that we need to look at as a country, as a society: the problems youth are facing and how cannabis can help.
You got a lot of flack when the story came out. How did that feel? I was very sad; I truly was. I understand you can’t please everyone all the time, and people are not going to understand; they’re going to take the clickbait: “Melissa smokes with her kids!” “Melissa gets high with her kids!” It’s like, “Ahhh!” People are going to go about their day and their life just with that little thought back in their head — “Oh, that crazy Melissa Etheridge.” That’s just part of the dangers of speaking honestly and openly.
It’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you, to say, “Hey, yes, that might be the headline, but there’s so much more to this.” I do not ever casually smoke with my children. I can count on one hand when that has happened with my grown children. It is not something I treat lightly about children under 18.
So why did you want to talk about your cannabis use in the first place? I believe in the healing powers, the good powers — I believe that cannabis is an answer for a lot of our social problems, a lot of our opioid problems, a lot of our illnesses that we don’t know what to do with. You find that cannabis has incredible effect on these. So I feel very deeply — having gone through cancer, having begun using it myself, in my daily life… It’s much like when I was gay, a lesbian, back when you didn’t talk about that and no one understood what it meant. Coming out was weird, and you just wanted to give information; you just wanted to educate. And that is truly whenever I make myself available for these interviews, it’s truly my intention: to educate, to answer questions.
What do you want people to take away from this conversation? This is a social issue that is not black and white. There are going to be people that are afraid of it; there are going to be people that choose not to be around it or not let their children be around it, and that’s their choice.
Although I am not a huge Melissa fan, I wanted to side with her on this. Lord knows I find myself apologizing for my comments all the time. Like Melissa, it’s not always that I say the wrong thing but I don’t elaborate enough so it sounds like I am saying something different from the point I am trying to make. But she’s all over the map here. I’m not seeing the parallels of smoking pot to being gay. If she means dealing with the stigma of something that should be accepted, she really needs to work on how she frames an argument.
The part where she backtracks the most is how often she’s smoked with her kids. Before, she said that the kids found smoking with her funny at first but then, “they realized it’s a very natural, end-of-the-day [thing]”. “End-of-day” implies frequency. Now she claims it rarely happens. And it sounds like her daughter was upset that she got lumped in with Melissa and Linda’s habits and asked Melissa to correct that perception, doesn’t it? As for her son, I agree, we don’t need to air his private business but she’s the one who did. If cannabis is an approved option for anxiety and ADD/ADHD, she could state the facts the doctor gave without linking them so specifically to her son. I don’t have a problem with Melissa and her adult children’s use of marijuana. The only issue I had was, to me, smoking = carcinogens, it wasn’t the pot itself. But spending 1,500 words to backpedal on something she is trying to destigmatize kind of works against her cause.
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