"It's the generation that is ready for this."
Venerated singer-songwriter, renowned equal rights and cannabis legalisation activist, and Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016 drawcard Melissa Etheridge says that she believes users of the Devil's lettuce should start to 'come out' in order to better spur on normalisation and decriminalisation processes.
Having spent more than 20 years as a vocal supporter of gay rights — and a significant period as an advocate for legalisation, notably while she was battling breast cancer mid-last decade — Etheridge says that she sees surface similarities in the transition of social attitudes towards non-heterosexuality and marijuana use (without, obviously, actually equating the two issues in terms of severity, before anyone gets upset).
"It's funny — being in the gay rights movement for over 20 years and seeing it go from such a place of 'no way' and 'impossible' and it just being this awful thing to, 'Wait a minute, this is human rights,' and really have people change — and genuinely change, coming up and going, 'These are our friends and family and co-workers we're talking about, we're not talking about criminals; these are real people," Etheridge told The Music's Steve Bell in a recent interview. "I've seen that change happen in 20 years, and I think that the same thing can happen in regards to cannabis."
In order to spur on such change, Etheridge says that users — despite the presently fraught legal landscape — should be more vocal about their use in order to further constructive discussion.
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"I think that people need to come out as cannabis users," she said. "They need to explain, 'Hey, I don't do this to get high and drop out of society, I do this because I don't want to take Prozac and I don't want to take this pain reliever or this sleeping aid that's going to addict me and become harmful — I'm going to take this plant that is healthy for me.'
"And when people see other people who are normal and like them choosing this path it normalises it, and that's what going to bring about the change — when the fear comes out of it. I saw it happen with the gay rights movement, and I believe that's what will happen with the cannabis movement."
"I think it’s the generation that is ready for this," she continued, "and because of mass communication and the internet and how we can access this information not just from one source any more — we can really look this up for ourselves and communicate with each other — it’s taken a whole lot of the fear out of it."