Normalize It: Author David Schmader’s Quest for Cannabis Acceptance

Seattle writer David Schmader is a cheerleader. Not in the sense that he grabs literal pompoms and heads to a field to celebrate run plays and touchdowns; rather, Schmader has been helping lead the chorus explicating the virtues of legal recreational and medical marijuana. “I want people to learn how cannabis can fit into a perfectly functional—a more than functional—creative life,” he explains. “That’s my main cheerleading point.”

And while legal cannabis is something the Emerald City playwright, journalist and satirist believes should be a reality across all borders, he’s equally quick to admit not every toke from a bowl is a gift from god. “Pot is not a one-way pass to all your dreams coming true,” the accomplished writer offers, “but it can be a beneficial crutch en route.”

A Senior Editor at the website Leafly, Schmader closely covers the ongoing story in Canada as the country attempts to federally legalize cannabis, staying abreast of pot news both local and international. He’s something of a scholar on the subject—perhaps because the matter affects him so closely. “For me, it honestly feels medicinal,” he says,  “to the point where it’s replicated whatever is missing in my brain. It calms me down and helps me focus. Though I know it can be the exact opposite for other people.”

Schmader’s focus and eloquence were on full display during a TEDx Talk recorded in Seattle in 2015, during which the author explained his process “coming out” as a pothead. The 12-minute talk, which recently shot past one million views on YouTube, asked its audience to move past traditional stereotypes of stoners and realize people who use pot are often business owners, lawyers, artists, academics and medical patients. “Those jokes still take up space today,” Schmader notes. “But we can get beyond them.”

In his 2016 book, Weed: The User’s Guide: A 21st Century Handbook for Enjoying Marijuana, Schmader talks about the “sane” enjoyment of pot. Creating a distinction between rational and frivolous marijuana use is important, he notes, because pot can turn into a problem for some if done habitually. But for others, regular use can benefit users immensely. To discern what cannabis can do for you, however, people need the opportunity of resources and information—something many still don’t legally have access to. “One good thing about legal recreational weed here in Washington,” Schmader asserts, “is that when people ask questions, you can direct them to places that have answers.”

To continue the battle against harmful stigmas both cannabis and cannabis users have endured for generations remains difficult, though doable, he maintains. And the next steps the United States should undertake, Schmader offers, as we watch Canada unfurl their nationwide legalization, is to expunge the criminal records of those incarcerated for harmless weed-related crimes. “That’s something we can do right now,” he affirms.

Additionally, we can continue the conversation—as Schmader does so well—about the benefits of cannabis, both recreationally and medicinally. “There is so much more we can do,” he explains, “to get the idea out of people’s heads that marijuana legalization is just an excuse for people to get really high. Sure, that might be a percentage of it. But it’s not the whole story.”

David Schmader Normalize It!
Photo by Curtis Bathurst

Jacob Uitti

Jake Uitti is a Seattle-based writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Seattle Times, Alaska Airlines Magazine and others. These days, he's surprised at how often he wears V-neck t-shirts. 

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