A couple of years ago I went over to my ex boyfriend’s best friends’ house to meet them for the first time.
They were a really lovely couple with a 1 year old son who was staying with his grandparents for the night while we all went out on a double date. And just before we left the house, this free-for-the-night new mom whipped out a joint.
I remember being so in awe in that moment that you could have knocked me over with the exhale of that first puff. This woman happened to be incredibly successful in her chosen career (we’re talking internationally known here), and while I had been familiar with her work and public persona for years I would never, ever have guessed she smoked weed.
Looking back, this happened at a time when cannabis was still criminalised in South Africa and I had zero female friends who smoked weed. But even today it still knocks my socks off to encounter a new sister stoner - let alone one with a child.
It is probably worth mentioning at the outset that I myself am not a mom.
But I am the first to admit that I’ve wanted to have kids ever since I was one - not that I had any idea at the time what parenthood meant, of course. Over the years I think I have come to a somewhat better understanding of what the job entails, but I also fully recognise that I will never really know what it all means until the day comes when I hopefully have my own tiny human to take care of.
This is partly why I have been wanting to write this article ever since I first came on board to create content for KushKush. I wholeheartedly believe that weed has provided me with some great salvation in this life - saving me from some pretty desperate anxiety, PTSD and depression, grounding me, helping me to connect with myself and sit with all my uncomfortable feelings.
So I always worried - was I going to have to have to give it up when I eventually became a mom? A role that surely exacerbated these concerns, and made them even more important to have a handle on.
But as it turns out, after interviewing a handful of badass weed-smoking (and all working!) moms, I am left feeling pretty positive and hopeful about the role of cannabis in my maternal future - despite a handful of challenges that may yet have to be overcome. Here’s what I learned.
THE FAMILY DYNAMIC
The first common theme to all of the moms I interviewed was that they have been smoking since their teenage years. They also all have 420-friendly partners who either also consume weed, or fully support their decision to toke. Those with younger kids seem to tag-team in their parenting duties to allow the other to enjoy some weed time independently, otherwise mostly smoking or vaping after their kids go to bed.
However, that is not to say that they all keep their weed a secret from their kids. While most moms said they don’t openly smoke in front of them, wanting to keep this sacred (those with older children) and avoid any confusion or condoning of the act of smoking in general (those with younger children), all kids had some level of awareness around cannabis as a result of it being present in their household.
Christi, mom and head chef at a popular local restaurant, says while her 4 year old is too young to really engage in a proper conversation around what cannabis is, the plant has been normalised to him as just that - a plant - through his parents openly growing their own at home.
While over at a friend’s house he recognised it, and when asked if he knew what to do with it he simply responded ”You cut the flowers off, and then you hang them up to dry and then you put them in a jar,” recalls his mom. “And to him, that's what you do with it.”
Another 4 year old, son of teacher Amy-Lee, has a slightly less surface level interpretation. “He understands that for some people, it’s a good thing,” she says, having told her mom and his grandma recently that “Mom and Dad smoke ganja and it’s quite healing.”
Amy-Lee believes this level of openness makes her more approachable as a parent. “I feel like I am flawed. I do things that aren't necessarily good all the time. I'm not a perfect human being, although I strive to be a good person. But if I can be open to my child, am I not allowing him to be open with me? Teaching him that what I'm doing is not a bad thing, but for some people they might see it that way and for some people it might affect them badly. But for me, this thing is not bad.”
“I think that parents need to consider openness, because I felt that in my teenage years especially, I had to lie about who I was. And if I was only able to be more open to my parents, I probably would have been safer.”
Another fascinating commonality to me was that all of these weed moms’ have parents who had historically been extremely conservative and disapproving of weed, but today are fully aware of their daughters’ relationship with cannabis - with all but one set of parents now also using cannabis recreationally or medicinally themselves (including one former pastor).
Which, obviously, is great. But… how did that happen?
Part of my amazement in the encounter with that very first weed-smoking mom came from it not being a reality I had previously known to exist. My own mom certainly never showed any support for it. She was pretty liberal, but had defaulted to spurning cannabis and never trying it herself simply because of the fact that it was illegal - a status which perhaps still holds more gravitas for her generation than it does for mine.
The other day I was watching that new series Nine Perfect Strangers, about a group of people at a very modern - and aesthetically mind blowing - wellness retreat. One character, the archetype of an All-American Dad, gets very upset when he learns that Nicole Kidman’s character has been (spoiler alert) micro-dosing her guests with psilocybin.
His immediate reaction was not to interrogate how this had been making him feel or to question the morality of what she had done, but rather to express fear over the illegality of the substance. “You could go to jail for this!” he exclaims in outrage, later anxiously murmuring to his wife “I’m just trying to think - did I break the law today?”
It may seem obvious to some, but it occurred to me then that while we would like to believe that education and exposure through their kids may have changed my mom’s and these parents’ minds, for many baby boomers a thumbs up from the law and increasing international legalisation is the only validation many of them needed to come to fully accept and even embrace cannabis.
Their problem, of course, was never truly with the plant itself - these parents had mostly never experienced it for themselves and didn’t know any better than to buy into the propaganda they were fed around it. And so their problem was mostly just around a misguided perception of the plant - and how they or their children might be judged or penalised for being associated with it.
Jo Hope, KushKush founder, says that while she was at school “You may as well have been mainlining heroin if you were caught with a joint.” Now, Jo’s parents, especially her mom, are hugely supportive of her business, and it’s only her younger brothers who have given her flack for it.
Why? Because despite growing legalisation, it seems that while these moms’ parents, partners and even kids are supportive of their relationships with weed, there is still a wealth of stigma and misunderstanding around it coming from their peers.
Some, like Christi, don’t care too much what others think. She’s comfortable with others knowing she smokes - there’s just a conversation that sometimes needs to happen around it. And just like choosing whether to give your kids carrots & hummus or crisps & chocolate in their lunch box. “It's not your decision. It's my decision. I've got my reasons and you don't have to agree with them.”
For Amy-Lee, some close colleagues at her school know she has a relationship with weed - but it’s not something she feels is appropriate to have the parents of her students know about.
And even by levelling up with weed and venturing into the cannabis business herself for the past two years, Jo has found openness around the subject to be a delicate balance, as she worries about her children being judged by proxy. She usually doesn’t offer up the exact nature of her business to her kids’ teachers and their friends’ parents unless asked.
However, when her daughter came home with a biased and misguided pamphlet around cannabis - “That's when I started the conversation around it with her. Because number one, I own a business that is centred around this plant. Number two, I needed her to understand that I'm not a drug dealer and that what I'm doing has a legitimate place in society, so that she doesn't misrepresent it.
“Because I'm also very aware of what can happen if she doesn’t have all the information and doesn’t tell the complete story to teachers or peers. I'm going to have social services at my door because they're going to think I'm literally the main character from Weeds.”
All of the moms agreed that they felt there to be more of a stigma surrounding their smoking than around dads smoking.
“I think a lot of it is self-imposed stigma because as women, we care too much about what other people think of us,” says Jo.
“Often, we create the stigma. We create those stories and narratives about ourselves. But I find that the more we talk about it, the less power that stigma has”.
Sadly, this is probably the reason behind the only commonality these women shared that I was disappointed to hear about - the fact that almost none of the moms have weed-smoking mom friends. While a couple were happy just to smoke alone or with their partner, many have some level of fear around sharing the fact that they smoked weed with other moms, and as a result most had never connected with another cannamama.
But when there is connection, it’s something special. “I’ve always hidden it from other moms,” says Amy-Lee. “And then only recently, my husband was relaying my smoking habits to another husband and I gasped, only for him to respond ‘Oh don’t worry, [my wife] also smokes.’ And that’s when we both realised. Now we have this beautiful bond and it’s amazing. And going forward I want to be more open, because now I have a friend.”
A point that came up organically in every single one of these interviews was some kind of commentary on how weed is viewed so differently to alcohol in mom circles - especially when most believed that on the rare occasions when they were in the presence of their kids after smoking, they felt themselves to be more present and patient parents.
One mom noted “The very few times I’ve smoked a little while my son’s around, it’s made me much more present when playing with him. My anxiety drops and I’m able to enjoy the moment... If I think about it, it would be safer for me to smoke instead of drink around kids, because it makes me more careful and aware (where alcohol has the opposite effect).”
Of course, it goes without saying that weed should be consumed responsibly and in moderation. “For me personally, I am still a successful, punctual, responsible, highly functional individual and I smoke every day,” says Amy-Lee. But speaking about a friend who recently decided to quit - “Smoking can make you impatient as a parent and you need to be aware of that - because you are wanting to enter into your own world when you smoke, and maybe the needs of your child then feel tedious.”
Jo believes “It 100% has a positive impact on my parenting style. I'm quite highly strung at the best of times so weed definitely helps me just take it down a notch or two after a long day, because otherwise I'm constantly thinking about a hundred things that I need to do instead of being present.”
“And I don't like drinking. It feels like it amplifies my impatience. Weed is honestly the answer to my winding down routine.”
Because while all the moms that I spoke to freely acknowledged that alcohol works for some and weed isn’t the answer for everyone, they also expressed disappointment in the lack of tolerance and awareness that the exact opposite is true for other moms.
“I think what I'd like them to think about, just for like two seconds, is - what is the difference between drinking a glass of wine and smoking a joint? Why is it different? It is for the same root cause. And you know, you never get a hangover from weed - that is like my shining light. It’s a game changer!”
“Just try it and decide for yourself.” says Jo. “Or don’t, but before you judge someone, just think about your ‘Is it too early for wine?’ jokes or your t-shirt that says ‘This mama runs on chardonnay’. There is no difference between the two and I look forward to the day when my fellow moms embrace that.”
Amy-Lee agrees. “With weed I'm able to get into my son's world. Because he's really little, we can draw and we can play. I feel that smoking sometimes helps me connect. But I think that moms make a lot of jokes about wine and alcohol and it's all ‘ha ha ha.’ And I wonder if when I was younger, in the mom groups - because I wouldn't have dared - if I had said, ‘Well, I smoke weed instead’ what they would have said.”
THE SECRET (AND SACRED) WEAPON
I’d like to think that if more weed smoking moms did share their ways with others, there would be wider acceptance and support - not to mention the potential for profound help with tackling even the very earliest of motherhood’s challenges. Because based on their own personal experiences, both Amy-Lee and Jo share the belief that cannabis may even have a place during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
When Amy-Lee got ill with extremely bad nausea during pregnancy, she started diving into research and found a video based on this study on Jamaican women who smoked weed while pregnant. When researchers visited their babies five years later: “The results showed no significant differences in developmental testing outcomes between children of marijuana-using and non-using mothers.”
Encouraged by these peer-reviewed and published journal articles, Amy-Lee found that if she took just two puffs of high quality weed a day, she was able to eat a plate of food without needing to take any medication. “I allowed myself to use it as a medicine, and it really worked.” Fast forward to today and “I have a four and half year old who is, and I know all parents say this, but he’s amazing and his development and everything is great.”
With the availability of high quality oils and edibles nowadays, she admits the smoking side of it wouldn’t be the route she’d go anymore. But she fully believes that while there is definitely still a lot unknown about how cannabis could affect moms-to-be, many who find themselves in similar situations could find relief in consuming weed. “I started sharing it with other women and it ended up being something that a lot of other women then benefited from in secret.”
Meanwhile, Jo believes cannabis would have been her saving grace during the heavy days of postnatal depression she experienced after giving birth.
“There aren’t studies that outline the effects of consuming cannabis while breastfeeding but I would still 100% tell my young mother self to choose her mental health. Because if a mom is okay - their baby will be okay.”
“There's so much focus placed on your physical health after your baby is born. But on mental health? Not so much. Cannabis could’ve been a more natural choice for being a more settled, confident mom.”
Hopefully in time there will not only be more research available on medical topics like these, but with mom shaming being rife enough as it is, there will also hopefully be more acceptance and tolerance from moms for one another’s personal choices when it comes to consuming cannabis.
I myself plan to take things as they come and time will tell whether weed will still be such an integral part of my life when I do become a mom - though it seems unlikely to start failing me.
Added to that is how inspiring these wonderfully open conversations have been - making me keen to actively seek out a community of all the pro-cannabis moms out there, to help drive connection and create safe spaces for conversations like this one to happen. Hopefully one day I’ll even get to take part in them.
If a weed moms’ group sounds like something that would blow your smoke, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org