How acceptable is lighting up a joint?
I admit that when I came across the US-based advocacy group Moms for Marijuana my initial thought was “only in America”. I mean, where else would you find laidback “moms” agitating for their stoner teen kids’ freedom of expression?
Except that I was wrong on two counts. Firstly, these women were serious about legalising marijuana, sure, but it was mainly for their own use. And secondly, with a busy Facebook page, MFM’s influence reaches not only across the US, but outside it, too, with chapters in Canada, Israel and, reportedly, Australia.
With more mums happily choosing grass over a glass it’s an issue that won’t run out of puff anytime soon.
If MFM and sister group Women’s Marijuana Movement sparked new debate in the US drug wars, then last year The New York Daily News did a top job of fanning the flames, running with the ingenious headline “Smokin’ pot mamas!”.
These women [are] serious about legalising marijuana ... mainly for their own use. Photo: Getty Images
While the Post managed to interview an impressive number of mothers on the “pastime’s” benefits (“When you’re smoking, you’re on a different level,” said 'Erica'. “Things don’t frustrate you as much.”), all did so, as the paper points out, only on the “condition of anonymity”.
And herein lies the rub. While we’ve long relied upon a variety of Mother’s Little Helpers (I was thinking cigarettes and alcohol. Things have changed a bit since the days Xanax and Valium were freely prescribed) to get us through the day, as the Post reminds us “the taboo of lighting up a joint, when you’re a mom — especially with young children — persists, which is why the practice is still deeply under the radar”.
Our own burgeoning cannabis consumption, however, has well and truly put us Antipodeans on the map. According to the 2012 United Nations World Drug Report, Australia and New Zealand can claim the “Biggest Recreational Drug Users in the World” title, “consuming more marijuana per capita than any other country”.
How many of these users are mothers of young children or pregnant women is hard to say, but as lactation consultant and researcher Denise Fisher wrote a few years back “use of social drugs by a minority of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is a fact of life”.
What Fisher found was that “26.6% of Australian women between the ages of 14 and 39 used marijuana in the year prior to the [National] Household Study… (and) in comparison with alcohol and nicotine usage, marijuana is the drug least likely to be reduced during pregnancy”.
It was time to play detective and do a little “grassroots” research of my own. As fate would have it, I had a five-year-old birthday party to attend and it didn’t take me long to run into Heather (not her real name), an effusive mother of two I catch up with now and again.
“I’m going out tonight,” she said sidling up to me with her four-year-old steadfastly velcroed to her side. “Oh, God, I’ll probably drink too much and smoke.”
“Smoke?” I asked with a raise of a conspiratory eyebrow (a disclosure: I can’t claim the Bill “I-didn’t-inhale” Clinton defence, but dope is not my habit of choice).
“Oh, no, I mean, cigarettes,” she said quickly. “But what I wouldn’t do for a joint.”
Bemoaning her husband’s weekly alcohol intake, a friend, let’s call her Elly, reminded me again that she was “no drinker”. “Give me a spliff over a chardy any day,” she said only marginally above a whisper.
And all this within the hour as we stamped the cold out of our bones under the aluminum shelter. Back at home, the more I thought about it the more names* popped into my head. Leah, a mother of two high-energy tween boys; Olivia and her four kids; Sue, a grandmother—not only were these women all loving mothers, they were highly-functioning members of their community.
But then becoming the homely face of the international cannabis campaign was never the intention of Serra Frank, the US mother of two who started up a MFM MySpace page in 2005, mainly to shed light on the benefits of medical marijuana.
Frank turned to pot in 2004 in desperation sometime after being diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, a chronic inflammation that affects the walls of the bladder. As she told The Fix in July last year: “After trying it, I realized that it was as if I had taken a pain pill—the pain was gone... I was mobile and almost alert.”
It’s the “almost alert” that understandably worries most health professionals. As Dr Howard Samuels, from the Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles, told the Post “pot can also be more dangerous because it doesn’t have the slow ramping-up option of a single glass of wine”.
“You smoke marijuana, you get high,” he says. “There’s a difference.”
Yep, it’s not just all that smoke that makes this such a grey area; although, as many would argue, put kids in the picture and things suddenly appear far more black and white. However, this much is clear. With more mums happily choosing grass over a glass it’s an issue that won’t run out of puff anytime soon.
*all pseudonyms…well, duh.
Do you know mums who smoke pot? What do you think of MFM? Have your say in the Essential Kids forum.
This article first appeared on Daily Life.