Pushing out a kid and then caring for the little poop monster is overwhelming, even if you have a solid support system. Many modern moms are fostering their careers while still handling the majority of household tasks and child care. It’s no wonder we routinely crack jokes about needing our “mommy juice” and are more reliant on anxiety medications than ever before. About 40 million adults in the US—most of whom are women—take psychiatric medications for anxiety or depression. And those women who are parents might be one of the most vulnerable groups.
There’s an arguably healthier, more natural alternative to taking prescriptions and guzzling bottles of wine from 5 PM until bedtime. Microdosing—using medical marijuana in the form of cannabis edibles, like chocolates, candies, or mints, in small (but varied) amounts—is gaining popularity wherever medical marijuana is legal, which it is in 29 states and growing. Some “modern” moms who struggle with anxiety are discovering the benefits with the help of medical marijuana companies who offer the products.
In California, as of January 2018, recreational marijuana use will be fully legal. But right now, you still need a medical marijuana card to obtain it. California-based Kiva Confections is one of the most well-known companies specializing in creating edible products for patients, which they say is “remarkably safer than both alcohol and prescription drugs.” A representative for the company reminds me that “according to the CDC, nearly 88,000 alcohol-related deaths occur every year.” The number of deaths attributed to an overdose of cannabis, on the other hand, is zero.
Lee M.*, a white mother living in San Jose, California, says the products are important and effective. She recently began buying edibles—Kiva products in particular—regularly after becoming aware that an uptick in her anxiety was leading to self-medicating with heavier alcohol use than she was comfortable with. “I’ve found specific kinds of chocolate are fantastic anti-anxiety meds,” she says. “It lowers my shoulders from around my ears, lets me relax and talk to my husband, and most importantly, lets me sleep without lying there for hours cycling over and over through anxiety-spiraling thoughts.” She also doesn’t experience any side effects like grogginess or a hangover.
Still, Lee feels there’s a stigma about any kind of cannabis use, even in California. For that reason, she’s highly regimented in her edible use, eating them only after her kids go to bed, and makes a point not to discuss it with mom friends either. “One phone call could start a really bad chain reaction. And it would likely be from one of those giggling ‘wine moms’ who uncork their first bottle at like 3:30 PM,” she says.
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Alcohol and prescription drugs are certainly still viewed as more socially acceptable than marijuana, given they’re legal everywhere in the US. But when it comes to moms of color, the stigma around any marijuana use is an immensely greater challenge. In 2010, young black Americans were four times more likely (in some cities, nine times, the Atlantic reminds us) than young white Americans to be arrested for using marijuana even though both use—and sell—illicit drugs at about the same rates. So while legality for medical use and recreational use is becoming more widespread, it makes sense that the fear of judgment (or worse) still exists, especially for people of color.
Some “marijuana moms,” as a Today show segment called them, are casual and open about their marijuana use, saying they are fully capable when using the drug and are even “better parents” as a result. But many claimed the story, and their very public use, reeked of white privilege. After all, these were white mothers who don't have to confront a justice system that has not exactly been a shining beacon of morality and compassion for black Americans.
Take the case of Philando Castile, a black man fatally shot during a traffic stop last summer, for example. The officer who pulled him over referenced the smell of marijuana to be a contributing cause for shooting him. In this case, marijuana use was enough to deem him a negligent parent, and a very real threat. (Now, weed has actually been shown to reduce aggression, but don’t get me started.) Of course, edibles are less obvious than smoking pot—one of the notable perks—but still, it makes sense that mothers of color might have their concerns about using the same “herbal relaxation” techniques that these white women are up on.
Carmen Tenorio*, a Latina mother living in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use, says even though she lives somewhere it is fully legal, she still has fears surrounding her use of edibles. Tenorio used to live in Miami, a “heavily Latinx area,” she says, but now that she lives in Colorado, she stands out more as a person of color and feels she may be judged more harshly for using it in any form.
“I think I would be way more outspoken about my personal use or more forthcoming when I meet people if I were not frequently the ‘other,’” she says. “Some people actually view Latinxs as uneducated, which blows my mind still, and I am cautious about furthering a stigma against Latinxs, specifically that we are somehow more irresponsible because some of us partake in the use of a medicine that not everyone has caught up to understanding is perfectly safe, and beneficial, and should be legalized everywhere.”
Mary Pryor is the co-founder of Cannaclusive, a Los Angeles-based digital advocacy platform geared toward cannabis education and lifestyle awareness for and from people of color. “People of color, especially persons of African descent, are immediately stigmatized and judged due to historically long-standing systems of racial and socioeconomic oppression in this country,” she says. But Pryor believes race affects how patients in all medical realms are treated, and studies have shown it to be true that minorities do not receive the same level of care as white patients. “Racism greatly affects treatment and care in the medical field,” she says. “So it's way more pervasive than just medicinal cannabis use.”
And Kiva Confections is making efforts to address the racial issues medical marijuana users may face. “The disparity in arrest rates between caucasians and minorities is an issue that sorely needs to be addressed,” a rep tells me. Kiva participates in a permit program that supports minority business owners to succeed in the competitive cannabis industry. The program is designed to address past disparities within the marijuana industry. Their hope is to break down some barriers into the industry itself, as a start.
Sometimes, doing the work that addresses the stigma means putting medical marijuana use in the public eye, which is what some of these white women aim to do. But a centuries-old system of discrimination—that many still prescribe to—stands strong, preventing some moms from taking advantage of what could be a better anxiety treatment than all the pinots and pills combined.
* source prefers to use a pseudonym
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