We interviewed Shannon DeGrooms of This is Jane Project. This interview was done on-site at the Women of Cannabis Conference – hence the background noise. This is Jane Project documents
Cannabis and Parenting | Lifting the Stigma With Leah Maurer
We interviewed Leah Maurer of The Weed Blog about cannabis and parenting. Leah is a canna-journalist, a legalization activist, a mom, and much more. Leah is enthusiastic about everything cannabis, but especially about cannabis and parenting. She is joy to speak to, and a passionate advocate in the industry.
Tell us your story. How did you get introduced to cannabis and why is it an important topic for you as a mother?
My journey with cannabis started quite a while ago, and like many other activists, I was sort of thrust into the cannabis movement. I had used cannabis before casually and didn’t think much of it. But in 2009, in Columbia Missouri where my husband and I and our two children were living on March 9th, 2009 we had a paramilitary style home invasion. Basically, a SWAT-style raid happened to us because we were growing medical cannabis in our basement there.
My mother-in-law had pancreatic cancer, and that’s why we had started growing. Our house was invaded by three different law enforcement bodies (I was in the middle of a miscarriage at the time so was already in a kind of trauma) and had my civil rights violated in a way that I didn’t know happened at the time. We lived in a very new, almost cookie cutter looking subdivision where all the houses look the same, and all the sidewalks are paved, and neither of us had any priors on our record. There was absolutely no evidence of violence around the home. That experience opened my eyes to the overall drug war and social injustices and criminal injustices that are intertwined in cannabis prohibition.
My husband was arrested, I was not. About three months after the SWAT raid happened we packed our bags and moved out to Portland, Oregon. About a year after that my husband pled guilty to the arrest, and he was given a five-year probation with 15 years hanging over his head during the entire probation, but the judge was kind enough to let him serve his probation here in Oregon. Since then we’ve been in Portland, Oregon and we now have three children.
Around 2013 we had watched two legalization measures not pass here in Oregon. And so, in 2013 we helped found an organization called New Approach Oregon which ended up being the organization that Measure 91 was campaigned and drafted out of. And in November 2014 Measure 91 was the campaign that successfully legalized recreational or adult use of cannabis here in Oregon. During that campaign was when I came out of my activist shell. I founded a group called Moms for Yes on Measure 91, and within just a couple of months, I had over a thousand people in the group. I did some press conferencing and some public speaking on behalf of the Measure 91 campaign advocating for legalization as a mother specifically.
Shortly after the measure passed, I helped launch and run the Women Grow chapter here in Portland. It was the largest and fastest growing chapter in the history of that company. I did that for about a year and a half during that time. I was hired by one of the very first recreationally licensed cannabis businesses here in Oregon called Yerba Buena farms. I served as their branding and outreach manager and got to watch firsthand as legalization rolled out here. I now serve as the editorial lead and manage the content and editing and publishing for The Weed Blog. In each of those roles that I’ve played in the industry my overall goal has been to lift the stigma that surrounds the cannabis conversation and the cannabis plant in general and normalize this conversation just like we have normalized conversations about other substances in this country and also to end prohibition on the national level ultimately.
The phrase cannabis and parenting is loaded with a heavy social stigma. I wanted to ask what that means to you. Why do you think people need to take a more open view on the topic?
As more and more states are legalizing cannabis, it’s critical that this is a topic that’s addressed. There are so many different angles you can address it from. One of the things I noticed when Measure 91 passed here is that there were far more conversations happening between parents at the PTA meetings and on the sideline of the soccer field. It just opened a can of worms. Those are conversations that people in prohibition states need to be having as well. I feel like in a prohibition state it’s easier for people that are under the age of 21 to get a hold of cannabis than it is in a legalized state like Oregon where it’s regulated the same way as alcohol essentially.
I think that as more and more states legalize there are so many more issues that are coming up surrounding this topic of cannabis and parenting. For example, parents that are medical patients that are choosing to use cannabis because they don’t want to take prescription pills or opioids. You have people who are cannabis industry professionals that are parents just like myself. Then you have parents who don’t work in the industry aren’t medical patients but choose to consume cannabis because that’s what they like to do. They prefer it to alcohol, they prefer it for whatever reason, but they see it as a way to unwind, or a way to help them sleep.
I’ve found talking about cannabis is very different than talking with kids about alcohol. If you’re a medical patient, you’re probably not going to compare your cannabis to alcohol. You’re going to compare it to, ‘mommy’s taking this instead of taking this bottle of pills because it helps me be more present for you as a parent.’ If you’re in the industry, maybe you don’t even consume cannabis, but you want your kids to know that you’re working in an industry that’s legal in your state even if it’s not legal in your entire country yet. And they need to understand the difference in legalities and things like that.
Especially with more and more states coming on with adult use legalization and medical legalization and even just decriminalization ordinances, it is becoming more critical that people who are parents starting to talk with each other and with other parents. The only way we’re going to make it so that there is a crystal clear way to talk about this with our children is by starting the conversation.
How do we need to change the way we talk to our kids about the plant? How do you talk to your children, what are the words, what’s the vocabulary that we should be using?
I think that each parent is going to do the best thing for their children. Obviously, it’s going depend on the age of your child, just like any other conversation. You’re going to talk to a 2-year-old very differently about safety than you’re going to talk to a 15-year-old about safety. My children are 13, 11, and 7 and so we have different ways that we discuss it with all of them.
Primarily I think the most important thing is that you’re giving your kids factual, research-based information and you’re not just going off of propaganda or conjecture or hearsay. We’ve been fed those things for decades from our federal government and from public institutions. Now we’re in a space where we’re having to defend this plant and say, ‘actually all these things that people have thought about it are really not true or might not be true.’ But we don’t have the research there to back it up yet because it’s been prohibited for so long it’s hard for us to get our hands-on research.
I think talking to kids using – we always use the word cannabis, we use the word consume – it’s using research-based, scientific language with them. Another thing that I think is really important, once kids are old enough to be able to read or you’re ready to have those conversations we were having with our 13-year-old, is to not only tell them this is what I know and this is our experience but to actually show them resources.
I think it’s essential to talk about cannabis with kids in the same way we would speak with them about alcohol. I mean you think about going into someone’s house you very frequently will see a wine rack or even a liquor cabinet that’s not locked in a very common area of their home where the kids are around at all the time. It’s just there, it’s like a piece of furniture. And so, with alcohol being that normalized sort of in our society just discussing cannabis with them in the same way that we would discuss alcohol with them you know it’s not safe for kids to use just like it’s not OK for safe for kids to drink wine, it’s not safe for kids to use cannabis you know. When they’re really little, and they don’t know any better obviously you need to be keeping your cannabis locked up and put away from reach just like you would do with alcohol or guns or bleach or other hazardous cleaners, prescription pills, anything.
We talk to our kids a lot about human development and brain development so that they’re very aware that the human brain doesn’t quit developing until it’s twenty-five years old and that it’s critical that they not put any substances in their body unless it’s absolutely necessary until that time. Whether it’s cannabis or caffeine or alcohol or anything. We’ve really tried to come at it from that angle so that it’s not just this black and white thing it’s more about how you treat your body as you’re growing up and making sure that you keep your own life safe when you get to a certain age, and you’re making decisions for yourself.
If somebody is looking to have a real conversation with their kids and wants this research and information, do you have any trusted sources you could refer us to?
There is enough out there now that you can just google something like, ‘talking to your children about cannabis’ and you’re going to have CNN pop up, you’re going to have CBS pop up, you’re going to have all kinds of mainstream media. But in terms of specifically cannabis and parenting resources, obviously, I’m going to direct you to the weedblog.com because that’s my website. And we try to do our best to put as much educational and informational content on there as possible.
There is a company called Tokeativity, that’s the global cannabis community for women. They have a ‘momma’s arm’ that’s just specifically for women who are mothers or who are thinking about motherhood. They have forums where you can discuss topics that might be unique to cannabis and parenting that you’re not going to come across on your regular mom’s circles. That’s one that I would certainly direct you to, tokativity.com. There’s another really great publication that’s called SPLIMM, and you can find them at Splimm.com. They are all about pot and parenting. That is the primary thing.
. Another one that I’m involved with that is doing some really incredible work in terms of protecting mother’s or striving to protect mother’s rights to choose plants over pills is called CanaMommy non-profit. And that’s Canamommy.org. They are a nonprofit based in California. They even have a nurse’s line that you can call from anywhere in the United States just to call and talk with a nurse about cannabis in general. As a mother, if you’re a breastfeeding mother, if you’re pregnant, you can talk to someone who does have a medical degree, and you can get some answers from them. So those are all really really great ones.
So, to go off the tracks here, a question that is interesting to me: in your opinion does using cannabis (even recreationally) make you a better parent?
It’s so funny because if you get onto the web, and you start looking at all the mommy blogger websites and the mommy blogger Instagram accounts and Facebook pages, it’s really hard to come across one where you don’t find a meme or a joke about ‘mommy needs her wine or mommy needs her coffee’ or something like that. Me and all my mom friends are like ‘What’s wrong with Mommy needs her cannabis?’
I don’t want to say cannabis makes you a better parent, but I think all parents, go through their own change of ‘what is going to help me be a better parent?’. Is it that I need to be up at 5:00 a.m. and taking my run every morning so that I’m sane by the time that kids wake up? Is it that I need to make sure that once a week I get a bubble bath? Is it that I need to make sure that I continue to go to my book club? All parents find a balance of “what is it that’s going to help me be a better parent?’. And I think that what I’ve found for me personally, and from talking to lots and lots of other moms and dads about this exact topic, is that they find that cannabis is a nice way for them to kind of take the edge off. Just like that glass of wine or that bubble bath or that run or whatever it is, I think that many people have found that cannabis takes the edge off and has far less effect on them than if they’re going to choose alcohol or if they’re going to choose another sort of way to unwind.
If parents want to add this tool to their parenting toolkit, what would some of the ground rules or best tips be to make that a successful part of parenting?
This all comes back to you and being a responsible adult, doing your own research, and listening to your own body when it comes to overdoing it. First, you want to be very educated about the legalities of cannabis where you live. The second thing is if you are in a legalized state and you have a medical marijuana card where you are able to go into a dispensary or go to a caregiver meetup type of thing, and you’re ready to get cannabis or if you’re in a legalized state is figuring out what going to be the most comfortable for you in your home. Some parents feel really strongly about they don’t want to have any smoke in their home. They don’t smoke cigarettes. They don’t smoke cannabis in their house. So, they might be people that are more likely to gravitate towards vape pens or edibles or tinctures or things like that. Some people really like the combustion of the flower, and they think that makes themselves makes them feel better than perhaps a tincture or edible would.
Then you’re at the point of, where’s the best place for me to keep these things, where is the best place for me to consume these, do we care if our kids know that we’re consuming cannabis? That’s a whole other conversation. I definitely know parents who are cannabis consumers and talk to their kids about cannabis, but they’re not at the point where they’re comfortable enough actually consuming it in front of their kids or where their kids know that it’s kept in the house.
It really depends on your life and where you’re at.
If you’re not a cannabis consumer and this is something that you’re wanting to try, I would definitely make sure that your children are asleep or maybe spending the night at grandma and grandpas or away at a long playdate or something like that before you just try it. Definitely get to a space where you know your body, you know you have things dialed in that way before you’re actually going to allow yourself to consume cannabis and parent at the same time. Some parents who are cannabis consumers still don’t like to do that, they prefer to keep themselves cannabis consumption free during the day. They wait till the kids are in bed and that’s when they like to sit down and have their little dab sesh or whatever. So, it really comes back to a matter of personal preference and really educating yourself and making sure that you’re also being safe and making responsible decisions.
Lastly, you are heading to a very well-known event called SXSW. Maybe you can tell people a little bit about what you’re going to be doing there and if people are heading to that event what to look for?
I imagine most people have heard of SXSW. It’s been going for a long time. Amazing 2+ week-long festival in Austin, Texas. They have music and all kinds of different sessions. This year is super exciting not just for myself but, in my opinion, for the entire cannabis movement and the entire emerging cannabis industry as a whole in the United States because SXSW has chosen to put a track that is specific to cannabis in their programming this year. It’s called the Cannabusiness Track.
I will be leading a meetup session at SXSW that’s called ‘Cannabis and Parenting Lifting the Stigma,’ it is a meetup. It’s a little bit different than a presentation or a panel, it’s exactly what it says it is, It’s a meetup. I hope that anyone who is at SXSW who is a parent and is even interested in cannabis or canna-curious even just a little bit will stop in at this meetup and meet myself and meet some other parents that are going to be there. I’m going to be giving people resources they can go look back up when they get home, we’re going to be talking about what the cannabis conversation looks like for industry professionals, what it looks like for medical patients, and what it looks like for cannabis consumers that are parents.
I’m really excited about it and so grateful that SXSW is taking this chance, and I feel like there’s already been a ton of traction. I see this as a tremendous opportunity to back up on the goal of normalizing the cannabis conversation in this country.
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