Recently I came out of the cannabis closet. I hope this encourages you to do the same.
Just say no
I was born in November 1974, which incidentally, is the same month that the first High Times magazine hit newsstands. Being born in the north of the UK in the seventies meant that one had to inevitably grow up in fairly difficult times. Conservative Margaret Thatcher was in power for what seemed like an interminable 19 years, and thanks to her “special relationship” with the Reagans, my coming of age was in a staunch, tough on crime, “Just say no” political climate. They even showed us the infamous and somewhat surreal “This is your brain and this is your brain on drugs” film of a guy frying an egg.
The idea that drugs were taboo was therefore drilled into you and it had a great impact on the majority of the population. Pretty much everyone took recreational drugs but very few people openly talked about it or went on the record.
As a youth, I did what fairly typical young people do: I experimented with various herbs and chemicals and had pleasant – and not so pleasant – experiences. I always had a soft spot for cannabis but due to obligations in the “real world” I drifted away from consumption and relied on legal drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, coffee and prescription drugs to keep me going.
Feel the burn out
It was only after a major burn out that things really started to spiral out of control. Before I knew it I was taking quite a number of different pills that didn’t seem to be helping my situation. In fact, one could argue that they were making things worse for me. To make a long story short I rediscovered cannabis and it helped me on such a level I decided to dedicate my life to helping the movement and ensuring that every human has the right to grow and consume cannabis safely.
However, reality struck and there was still a need to bring in an income to support my family of five in our little house in Belgium. Since cannabis is illegal in the majority of the world, finding a job within the industry was not the easiest of things to do. To avoid any conflicts at work I created the alter ego “Percy Grower” through which to share my research, experiences and thoughts.
Over time, “Percy” really started to build a platform. It kind of snowballed and the longer it went on, the harder it was to switch back to being Bill. I was moving away from the perceived anonymity of social networks towards meeting people in the emerging industry and even talking at events – such as the recent Cultiva in Vienna. Percy was the half of me that seemed to be having a lot more fun. But it took a lot of time and effort to be Percy on top of just being Bill.
I’m an honest person by nature and I believe that if everyone were to stand up and be honest about their drug use we’d make great strides towards the end of cannabis prohibition globally. So constantly nagging in my subconscious was the fact that I was being a massive hypocrite in hiding behind the pen name Percy Grower.
That said, I got used to people calling me Percy. In fact, it’s quite an endearing name when you think about it. But I would usually inform them that it was just my pen name and everyone calls me Bill. I would even go to the effort of writing “Bill” on my card when I passed it to people.
Wearing a bathing suit in a nudist colony
A few weeks ago was the final straw. I attended a seminar at Mendel University in the Czech Republic, and around the table everyone was openly using their given names. To be honest, I felt silly using the name Percy Grower when I was talking to researchers, doctors and entrepreneurs in the cannabis field. There I was with my two degrees and a respectable life hiding behind a quirky name. It finally occurred to me that using a pen name or alter ego in this day and age is like wearing a bathing suit in a nudist colony – you start to feel self-conscious and a little bit of a plonker after a while.
Being British – and therefore a prude by nature – I have thrice worn trunks in situations when others are fully naked and on all occasions I was pretty quick to whip off my bathing suit and go the full monty. I apologise for any pictures I my be painting in your mind right now. Not everyone wants to see a naked 42-year-old and to be honest, that was my justification for going naked. Who’s gonna look and quite frankly, who cares?
Well, exactly the same can be said for talking openly about the benefits of cannabis and hemp. I find people tend to be genuinely interested in the topic and I’ve never felt that they are judging me for sharing my views. I’m not going to get thrown in jail for having the opinion that drug use should be in the realms of public health and not law enforcement and people should have the right to safe access to cannabis for medical or recreational use whether via self-cultivation or through a trustworthy distributor.
Sleeping well at night
There are laws in Belgium that make it illegal to promote drug use, but I really doubt that anyone is going to attempt to waste public money to prosecute me for such a thing. Belgium is still reeling from multiple terrorist attacks (one of which happened about 100 meters from my office) and police resources are stretched enough in monitoring social media for jihadis, let alone monitoring the Twitter feed of someone sending out positive tweets about medical cannabis and hemp.
All in all, I can sleep well at night.
I can sleep even better now that I am out in the open writing about my adventures in cannabis land under my real name, Bill Griffin. Writing for The Marijuana Times – where, I have to point out, all my colleagues are openly using their real names (thinking of swimming shorts again) – has opened many doors for me and I’m meeting people within the industry. It is just a matter of time before I can fully transition into a role that suits my life circumstances and location.
Just do it!
For those that have made it this far down the article, I’m assuming that could be because you are also using an alter ego for your activist activities. If that is the case then I kindly request that you think about the following.
In this day and age, if law enforcement wishes to find out who is behind your Twitter handle they can very easily do it. You no doubt spend most of your time talking about cannabis and hemp to your friends and family so everyone in your personal life is already aware. In going on the record out in the open with your real identity you are doing the cannabis movement a huge service. One tweet on the record is worth a gazillion anonymous tweets – which are essentially just green noise.
I did it, and the sky remains intact, my family has not disowned me, I’ve not been carted off to rot away in jail and – as far as I know – I still have a job waiting for me (I’m currently halfway through a 6 month career break). That is, of course, providing that nothing more aligned with my heart comes up before my planned return.
Please do the same. Be open in your thoughts about cannabis, so this cruel, inhumane situation can be left in the history books where it belongs as the second great reminder that prohibition does not work. The benefits of cannabis and hemp have been proven already, we just need to show that decent, hardworking, respectful, taxpaying, family and community minded people want safe access for all.