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Consumers in the Cannabis Closet Are More Afraid of Stigmas Than Jail Sentences

Most people who use marijuana keep their consumption hidden from others in their lives. But what is their motivation for doing so?

Civilized teamed up with PSB Research to survey over 1,000 Americans and 600 Canadians about different issues related to marijuana. One of the topics we asked the cannabis users in our survey was why they hide their consumption from people in their lives.

If you think the answer is because of fear of punishments due to the drug's illegal status, that isn't the case. In the United States that was only the third highest reason for keeping marijuana use hidden, with 30 percent of American users citing that as a reason. In Canada it was the fourth highest reason, with only 28 percent.

The biggest reason in both countries is fear of judgment. 41 percent of American and 42 percent of Canadian marijuana users cited this as their main motivation for concealing marijuana use. This would particularly be true among older, more conservative people who tend to have a more negative opinion of cannabis users.

The second biggest reason for concealing marijuana use in both countries was they don't want to be a "bad influence." Presumably this would be a reason to hide your cannabis use from children in your lives, so they wouldn't be persuaded to use marijuana at a young age. 33 percent of Americans cited this reason for their concealment, while Canadians felt more strongly about it as 40 percent of the country's cannabis users said this was their motivation for staying in the cannabis closet.

Other reasons for hiding cannabis use was not wanting to worry people and not wanting to interact with people while high.

One reason some users said they conceal their cannabis consumption was embarrassment. In fact, Canadians felt this was slightly more important with 16 percent of users citing this reason compared to only 10 percent of Americans.

Based on these responses, you can see that the main motivation people hide their cannabis use has nothing to do with fear of getting caught by law enforcement. Instead, it's the fear about the stigma associated with the drug. So many people have a negative opinion of marijuana users that the majority of people who use the drug feel the need to hide it.

Stigmas related to marijuana use will decrease in time as the drug becomes legal in Canada and more states allow it in America. So perhaps these fears about hiding marijuana use will go away as well, and people will be able to use the drug without thinking everyone in their life will think less of them.

Not all of the reasons for hiding marijuana user were negative though. 11 percent of Americans and eight percent of Canadians said they don't tell people about their cannabis consumption because they don't want to share.

That's one motivation that won't be going away any time soon.


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