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Ames Talks Identity, Stigma Community & Beyond

Ames was introduced to cannabis at a young age through a sibling, " I was introduced when I was 14 years old by my sister." However, it wasn't until they turned 18 that they started incorporating cannabis into their routine. "It wasn’t until I was 18 when I got my medical card that I started smoking more recreationally. Now I smoke every day but use it more medicinally."

Along with a shift in how they consume, Ames also experienced a shift in their thoughts on cannabis consumption, "I never really had marijuana around my household (my mom is actually very strict). So any drug talk was a big no! But since I’ve started smoking I’ve never had any bad experience with it and I’m not sure why people still stigmatize it as it’s such a negative thing when it really isn’t. As far as the community, I have not seen much change. It's still a very big bro community and I just wish it was a little bit more inclusive."

Ames is no stranger to stigma when it comes to their cannabis consumption, "(I experienced it) a lot more when I lived in California, it’s definitely more chill in Oregon. I don’t get described as lazy or unproductive by people here. It's funny, I have seen some of my professors at dispensaries when I am also picking up.

In Oregon, it’s all so much easier to just smoke when you need to smoke, and talk about smoking with almost anybody here. Here you could definitely just spark a joint and walk around with it and nobody will tell you anything..." This is unlike what Ames has experienced when living in California, " (In California) you would probably get some really ugly looks from people. I think the only one that really stigmatizes me personally is my mom, she definitely still hates weed to this day and I just hope one day she decides to try and get over the fact that it’s just really medicinal nothing else."

It can be incredibly difficult to not have the support you need, especially when it comes to stigmas around a plant that can truly provide so many healing benefits.

Ames has found wonderful benefits from their cannabis consumption for mental health and pain relief. " I struggled a lot making social connections with people, or friendships, or even just being myself but sometimes when I smoke weed I just get very giddy and just become happy. I honestly just start being who I really am without having any judgment on myself or caring what others are thinking. It has also definitely benefited me when I have pain. I use it to work out or to relax after work or to stretch."

When it comes to misconceptions about the cannabis community Ames is surprised that it is still considered a gateway drug by so many, " it’s hard to believe that people still think weed is a gateway drug. I’ve been smoking for 10 years now and never once have I really ever wanted to experience any other drug, I mean unless it’s psychedelics, but that's just my personal choice it wasn’t because of weed it’s just because I wanted to try. But yea we are told stoners are lazy and then it surprises people when I tell them I’m studying biochemistry. I get so many shocked looks because many people don’t think stoners are capable of achieving bigger things." Talk about breaking down stigmas and crushing goals!

When it comes to personal consumption, Ames loves to incorporate cannabis throughout their entire day, "haha I literally smoke 24/7. The first thing I do before I even eat or wash my face is smoke a bowl. I usually always start my day by smoking a bowl. I do about everything high, i.e., I have to smoke a bowl before I do chores, before I take a shower I smoke a bowl before I walk my dog. I really just smoke a bowl for most of my activities."

Part of what we found so compelling about Ames's story is the fact that cannabis played a part in allowing them to tap into a place where they could be completely themselves, " As I grew older, I started using cannabis more medicinally especially for mental health so I would smoke sometimes and just feel better about who I was/I am.

I would get very anxious trying to pretend to be someone I wasn’t, and when I would smoke I would just act out as who I wanted to be as a person, who I wanted people to see me as. I wasn’t trying to hide anything when I was high.

Cannabis has also turned me into such a social butterfly. Now I like to smoke every time I’m gonna talk to someone, it helps me come up with conversations and just be very giddy or very sweet. I don’t feel like a fool when I’m hanging out with people and also I find others who enjoy smoking as well and sometimes they tend to be from the queer community so I’ve made many friends because of cannabis, we just smoke together and bond."

It quite literally had us in tears hearing about this strong community of supportive friends at the intersection of the cannabis and queer community! However, as someone active in the cannabis community, Ames spoke about how there is still a lot of room to grow when it comes to the representation of the trans community in the cannabis space. "Unfortunately, the trans community is not really represented in many places. But the cannabis industry, in particular, is a very big bro industry so it’s not very queer-friendly in general or even women-friendly. I mean there are still some communities within the cannabis industry that are women-owned or queer-friendly spaces but oftentimes, it’s still stigmatized or looked down upon by many people.

I am very fortunate enough to work in a very queer-friendly dispensary where many of the budtenders are actually part of the queer community, and many of our customers are also part of the queer community, so I do feel like there’s a representation within there, but then again we are just one small shop and I just wish I saw more shops that had more queer-friendly spaces or just queer budtenders.

I used to work at a dispensary that was actually a little bit more homophobic, I had to pretend I wasn’t who I really was, I was called a woman there because I was afraid of being the real me for fear of being judged or hurt by people."

No one should ever have to hide who they are because of fear. We are so happy that Ames was able to find a place that does embrace them and welcome them, and there needs to be more change when it comes to inclusivity inside and out of the cannabis community.

There is also a lot of room to grow when it comes to education and information about the trans community. "A big misunderstanding of the trans community is believing that people have to be fully transitioned to be trans. I am non-binary so I don’t plan on being one gender or the other I honestly don’t even believe gender is a real thing it’s all socially constructed. I feel non-binary or I am non-binary because I don’t like these gender roles that are put on me based on the genitals that I have, and I also just don’t feel like I fit in any category. Sometimes I feel more feminine, sometimes I feel like being more masculine, sometimes I just feel like being a fairy or some other weird creature but in the end, I’m just the person I am regardless of what I have on the exterior side of me.”

A lot of people still believe you have to have an end result or an end gender to be accepted. It’s funny because I have a friend who fully transitioned, and she told me that she has it a lot easier being a transwoman than me being a non-binary person because I will constantly still get misgendered, as opposed to, her because I, unfortunately, will always have people referring me as she/her or he/him and never really they/them".

As we mentioned earlier, Ames found tremendous benefits for their mental health when it came to finding their true self. "It has helped a lot with my mental health in accepting and loving myself for just being me. It’s actually put me in a better, happier mood. I am more giddy and social when I’m high. I just believe that’s important for anyone that’s trying to discover who they truly are." They continued to explain that this is something that many people from the trans community truly need as a tool to help them figure out who they truly are."

Ames ended up working in the cannabis sector about 2 years ago through a past flame, " It was funny, I got the job actually through an ex of mine who told me to apply for a position that they were told about. I did get my medical card in California when I was 18, so I have been to dispensaries for over 10 years now, but yeah as a budtender it’s only been two years.

I love working as a budtender, it’s just so cool being so close to this plant. Also, I just like the resources and accessibility I have to continue to explore this plant to know more about it. As I said, I’m studying biochemistry and I am very intrigued in the medicinal properties of this plant, as well as the chemical structures." We are super excited to see what's next when it comes to Ames's explorations into the structures of cannabis!

Ames is not only a proud pet & plant parent, they are also working on building community bonds in Portland. "I just moved to Portland, so most of my time is just trying to make new friends out here, it’s been really hard since COVID, but yeah I’m just trying to find a community and figure out the people I want to hang out with and be friends with."

Ames is looking forward to a day where cannabis is accepted on a Federal level, to create more pathways for research. “There isn’t much research happening on cannabis right now that should be, especially in academia. Unfortunately, without financial help, not much research can be done. So people should vote on policies that can normalize it to have it more accessible to the community.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a state where weed was really accessible. I can only imagine (how it is) in other states where it is much harder to find cannabis. I believe we really need to start making it a more common term in our households, so we can do more research on it." We couldn't agree more!

When it comes to the future Ames is most excited by the endless possibilities for the plant. "It could be turned into anything. We saw it in edibles where you can infuse it into just about anything you eat, not only that, but you bathe with it or use it when having sex. The more research we do the more accessibility and the more ways we can figure out how to deliver it to each human that needs it."

Ames is a beautiful and exceptional human! We are so honored that they took the time to talk with us about their journey, and we are inspired by the work they are doing for accessibility, normalization, and education. To learn more about Ames, please follow them on IG @de.ojos.tristes.

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