Though cannabis has made great strides in public perception the past couple of decades, certain groups are still wading through the waters of complete acceptance. The decision to partake in an edible or pull from a pipe shouldn't make one a pariah if that person has a child, and yet, here we are.
In a world where the “wine mom” is celebrated — and even encouraged — across advertisements and social media, shouldn't mothers who enjoy a joint here and there feel just as welcome? After all, they're unwinding after a long day, too — why does booze tend to be the only answer to taking the edge off every once in a while?
To tear down the unnecessary shame and stigma that tends to muffle women's (and especially mothers) voices, we spoke with three moms who proudly enjoy the fruits of legalization. Businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and advocates, these women have heard it all when it comes to raising children and opening up to the weed community.*
*Interview lightly edited for length and clarity.
Meet our interviewees:
Erin Willis: Holistic nutritionist and owner of Mother Indica, a digital source for mothers on wellness, storytelling, self-love, and advice. Erin also teaches workshops for women and is an educator of CBD use through Onda Wellness.
On cannabis stigma
WM: Cannabis stigma has shifted considerably with wider acceptance and legalization of the plant. However, the loosening of stigma hasn't quite reached mothers with the same open arms. Why do you think mothers tend to bear the brunt of social ostracization when it comes to consuming cannabis? What would you like to convey to people who judge your choice in partaking in cannabis products?
Gonzalez: I feel that mothers are often so wrongly judged. Especially by their own family and other mothers they know. We get shamed if we don't breastfeed, whether we babywear, nap our toddler, raise them with faith, I could go on and on … so it doesn't surprise me to see this trend with cannabis as well. Which is a shame, because we are the ones who need cannabis the most. I used to really abuse alcohol on a nightly basis. I wasn't present with my children, and I wasn't present with myself. I needed a lifestyle change. So I traded in my nightly wine routine for daily cannabis dosing.
Cannabis brought me closer to myself, my children and my spouse, and even helped mend my relationship with my father, who is a walking cannabis success story of his very own. I can't recall anything else in my life that has had so many positive influences from one lifestyle change. Cannabis truly is the gateway to health and wellness. I say it all the time, but I will say it again for the people in the back: just give plants a chance!
Best: When it comes to consuming cannabis, I think mothers tend to bear the brunt of social ostracization because we get judged for absolutely everything. From the day we find out we're pregnant, the judgment and criticisms begin. And because cannabis has been, and still is, illegal in many places, it's a hard topic to get people to agree on.
For some reason, there are very high expectations of mothers. But I don't quite see how using something to alleviate our pain, anxiety, depression, etc. is so frowned upon. It's no different than taking medications or enjoying a glass of wine. That's what I really want to convey to people who judge my — or anyone else's — choice in using cannabis.
Willis: I believe maternal criticism is a deeply woven societal concept across all topics. Mother's are the life-givers and protectors of the world's children. As simple as that statement is, it carries profound implications that are difficult to live up to. Unfortunately, our societies put disproportionate weight on mothers to do our absolute best at all moments. Be present, but still work. Keep the home clean and orderly and teach your children. Look good and take care of yourself. There are many hats to wear and thrive in, but it's simply unrealistic to succeed in all of these modalities without outside support.
When a woman carries an unborn child, people believe they now have a say in how she cares for her body. Whether the science is there to back it up or not, opinions seem to grow. This same concept carries over to cannabis consumption during pregnancy and postpartum. What I would like to convey to those who do not understand, is that a woman loves her child more than anything else. She also lives within and understands her own body. To judge a woman who looks to natural remedies and solutions to ease the wildness that is motherhood is stepping into grounds that do not belong to you. Simply put, it is none of their business.
On positive voices in the industry
WM: You have been in the cannabis realm for some time, and have developed a path to cannabis education and involvement with women all over the world. Now more than ever, it is extremely important that women are given a voice in this industry. Which of these voices have either impacted or influenced you the most? What positive things are you beginning to see in the space for women that hadn't been here before?
Gonzalez: We are very lucky to have a lot of strong females in our industry, leading the way so that women like me can shine our light onto the community and thrive as well. First, I would have to honor Jane West, whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting just yet, but she was the first “CannaMom” I ever saw on television that proved to me that I wasn't alone. It was such a relief to witness other mothers using cannabis for various reasons, all while still getting their work done. Next, I would have to acknowledge Doreen Sullivan of My Bud Vase, who has made such a big impact on my career development. Doreen quickly brought me under her cannabiz wings and showed me how to hone in on my entrepreneurial side. She has always encouraged authenticity, bold moves, and to use our cannabis shamelessly because moms need it most! And last but certainly not least, Dana Cisneros Esq. of Cannabis Corporate Law. Dana is such a hard-working woman and such a charity fairy, sprinkling her magic on the local and cannabis communities. I am so grateful to have her in my life to inspire me to do good for our community and the future of our children.
Both Dana and Doreen have always pushed me on my path to attend meaningful industry events that leave me educated and energized every single time. It's relationships like these that make this industry so valuable if you are willing to put in the effort and energy into them as well.
One of the things that has really blown my mind are all the collaborations that are happening that really had never been done before to the scale that they are being done now. I feel that a few years ago it was very “every woman for themselves", but as our community has blended into many other communities, including the entertainment, health and wellness and spiritual industries, we are starting to recognize that there is so much more space for us all to succeed. It has been a blessing to see everyone collaborate and create these epic events, experiences, and social groups so female entrepreneurs — or those that are canna-curious — can find a space to connect and get support in any way that they need.
We are so lucky to have entrepreneurial encouraging groups like Toketivity, Women Grow, and Los Angeles-based CannaBoss Babes. We also have some newer resources like the Women of Cannabis Conference, Lady Jane Branding, and new social apps like Hi.Curious which cater to community, connection, and education. Cannabis is already so healing, I know in my heart that the more we work together and help one another thrive, the more we can propel ourselves forward and help this become the best industry the world will see.
Best: I have met so many amazing women in this little world of cannabis. The first person who inspired me to even open up and go public with my use was Caitlin Fladager. When she spoke about her cannabis use as a mother and her reasons why, I felt like it opened so many people's eyes and broke down a barrier that has been up for so long. And as I was meeting new women, I started realizing that more and more mothers are using cannabis on a regular basis.
I really appreciate @medicatedd.mamaa because she is a cannamom who normalizes it in such a way that makes it hard for anyone to cast judgment on the rest of us. She talks about everything motherhood, but also thoroughly enjoys her dabs. It's people like this who are paving the way for other mothers to feel comfortable opening up and caring less what other people think. I myself have found an amazing group of cannamoms, and we have the most supportive uplifting group chat. That's what this community is all about, and that is a very positive thing for women, because the more we talk about it and normalize it, the more we erase the stigma.
Willis: When I look to the cannabis industry, I see both incredible potential and fragility. This movement can go in any direction, and it honestly makes me nervous that it may not be conveyed and represented as brilliantly as it can be. Representation is everything right now, and because women already walk around with a layer of perceived skepticism covering us, navigating the cannabis world as a woman is a tough game to play.
Having the educational background of cannabis for proper representation is a priority in my opinion. So although lifestyle and influence are exciting and thought-provoking, there still needs to be a spine of legitimacy. When it comes to the female voices speaking for this movement and medicine, Bonnie Goldstein first comes to mind. Goldstein is a medical doctor and pediatrician who began her research on medicinal cannabis in 2008 when a friend of hers was sick. She has since carried a vital role in research participation and in representing cannabis as a medicine and the children whose lives are enriched by this plant.
Two other voices I'd like to honor, if I may, are Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey and Chelsea Leyland. Both are insanely creative, strong, and intelligent women who represent the deeper aspects of cannabis as a necessity in this world. Mennlay is a prolific journalist with a deep love for and understanding of cannabis as both medicine and cultural tool that unites women across the world. She also wrote the book The Art of Weed Butter, which I highly recommend you check out. Chelsea is a British DJ and cannabis/epilepsy advocate who has an aggressive form of epilepsy herself. Both cannabis and epilepsy carry a strong stigma, so Chelsea advocates for the education and destigmatization surrounding both. She is the voice for thousands of children and adults with epilepsy who could benefit from CBD-rich cannabis, and is the co-producer of the not-yet-released documentary, “Separating The Strains”.
On the future of cannabis and motherhood
WM: How do you see cannabis and motherhood changing in the future? Do you believe the stigma will let up, and if so, where do you see that happening first?
Gonzalez: Now more than ever, women are flipping the script on what we knew motherhood was when we were children. Unlike most of our mothers, women are talking out loud about how impossible it is to try and “do it all.” We are now bonded over the hidden undersides of parenting that aren't so taboo anymore, we have been expressing the hardships of parenting and the incessant need for wine and coffee to function. But what about cannabis? I believe with this pandemic and parents being forced to be home and scrolling through social media, I can see us changing conversations to involve more benefits of cannabis and parenting that will eventually make 4:20 as casual as “wine o'clock.”
The thing is, motherhood isn't meant to be stressful. It is meant to be a fulfilling experience. If that means mom needs to take a 1:1 gummy before her day starts so that she can be a more present and patient parent, then so be it. We shouldn't be shaming anyone for anything anymore. We are all in survival mode. And this means we should be seeking what is best for our physical and mental health. Once we start opening up the conversation and begin sharing our experiences more, we can show the people in our lives how cannabis has helped us and explain to them, “hey, this plant is really helping me with so many ailments including my sleep and arthritis.”
Statements like that will help get the wheels going in the right direction toward normalization and eventually, full legalization. As brands, consumers and advocates begin to spread more education and demystify this plant, we can communicate to others that there are dozens of reasons why this plant helps so many people of all ages, and why millions of us are thriving today because of cannabis. So spark the conversation and spread cannabis education and normalization like fire.
Best: In the future, I think cannabis and motherhood will be much more widely accepted. With more and more states legalizing, the stigma is already changing. There is power in numbers, so the more mothers speak out and open up, the faster we can shift these attitudes. I totally realize that it's not possible for everyone, whether it be jobs or legality. However, for the ones that do have the luxury of being public with their use, they really need to do it. It starts with educating your family and friends. A lot of people only think cannabis is bad because they were told so. Most of the time it comes down to people not being educated.
Willis: When it comes to cannabis being reintroduced into the household, I have high hopes. Opportunity and relevance are outstanding because mothers all over the world are struggling. What I mean by this is there is a social construct currently in place that simply does not work. In more developed parts of the world, mothers are more separated from one another more than ever before. We are isolated and overly medicated, we buy and consume foods that are depleted of nutrients, and we are being forced or pressured back into work before our babies are even old enough to cognitively understand they are a separate person.
Cannabis has this beautiful ability to lift the veil of societal conditioning. This is, of course, thanks to our endocannabinoid systems and the connections that are being made between neurons. Cannabis makes us question things that just moments ago were absolute. It can make us evaluate the very fabric of our societies. That is profound and imperative.
Although I have my doubts that stigma will be dismantled in the near future, I do believe it will eventually let up. This is especially true if more mothers speak up. Speak up to their doctors, their partners, speak about it to their children … The more we use our voice to express why we feel called to consume cannabis, the more normalized it will become. It has to.
On cannabis and Covid-19
WM: How has Covid-19 impacted you as a mother? Has cannabis helped during this time and if so, in what ways?
Gonzalez: I know a lot of people cringe when they hear people say this, but this quarantine has been one of the best things to ever happen to my family. And cannabis has actually made me a better mother. I was working a lot right before we went into lockdown. Most weekends I was out of town for travel or attending industry events, so I missed some milestones from my girls, but I feel like these past three months have rendered me so much missed time that I felt I had lost before. I now have time to truly connect with my children. I know what's going on in their day. I know what their struggles are in school. I know if they really ate the veggies in their lunch. It has been a humbling and eye-opening experience for us as a family. We have always been very close, but somehow, we managed to get closer through all of this.
My husband and I had to also assess which roles we could step into in order to help our family thrive, which meant me coming to terms that even though I am a great educator in the cannabis space, I am not suited to be my children's educator, so that's where my husband steps in.
And then there are moments I have had to get creative as “Jessie,” to honor alone time for myself so that I don't lose myself in motherhood — which is also why cannabis is so important. For those moments that I feel myself losing patience, becoming out of alignment with myself and my values, or going down the road to anxiety and fear, cannabis always brings me right back to where I want to be as a mother and as a human.
Best: To be honest, I am a stay-at-home mom and a bit of homebody, so Covid-19 hasn't impacted me as a mother too much. There are times when I get very stir-crazy sitting at home all day. I would love to be able to take my daughter to the zoo, go to the park or have a playdate. It can get very lonely and depressing having no adult interaction and constantly catering to a toddler. But that is why I am so grateful for cannabis. My consumption has definitely gone up, but if it's keeping me sane then I'm not complaining. I do use it for depression and anxiety, which is exactly what has increased during this time, so it is extremely helpful right now.
Willis: There are a few factors playing into my experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is, my partner, 4-year-old son, and I recently moved to Colorado from California where I was born and raised. We came out here for a sick relative who has since passed. We do not know many people out here nor do we have any family members close by. I am also 7 months pregnant and have missed out on some wonderful milestones when it comes to celebrating this new life inside of me.
Although we are only so grateful to have our health and employment, loneliness can be all-consuming. Cannabis has definitely played its role in easing the storms. I am working as an educator and social marketing contractor for my favorite CBD company, Onda Wellness, and get to dapple with my favorite products to help my body relax and recalibrate. My livelihood is cannabis and that's not going anywhere anytime soon.
Featured illustration by VectorMine/Shutterstock