'[People] just assume you're going to be this deadbeat mum:' As parental marijuana use climbs, some mums say they have been judged for using the drug

Hollis Johnson/INSIDERMarijuana use among parents has increased in recent years, research says.
  • Polls indicate that marijuana acceptance is on the rise in the US, and research suggests more parents are using the drug than in the past.
  • Some mothers told INSIDER they have experienced judgment for using marijuana as parents.
  • They said that judgment is based on misconceptions and stereotypes.
  • A doctor told INSIDER parents should be informed about marijuana effects that could impact parenting skills.

As states continue to legalise marijuana for medical and recreational use, it seems more and more Americans have come to accept the drug: Two 2018 polls found that more than 60% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana and believe consuming the drug is morally acceptable.

But that rising public acceptance may not extend to marijuana-using parents.

INSIDER recently interviewed women who used cannabis during and after pregnancy. The mothers also continued to use it as parents – and research indicates this is a growing trend.

Some of the women INSIDER interviewed said they have been judged because of their marijuana use as parents. They believe this judgment stems from misconceptions and stereotypes about the drug.

Some mothers say that they have been judged for using cannabis

Back in 2017, Celia Behar, 45, a mother of two, told Yahoo News that cannabis had made her “a better parent.” Soon after, she overheard a group of other mothers at her daughter’s school talking about her.

“One of them brought up the Yahoo article and said something like, ‘That mum has a daughter here.’ And it was all, ‘[She] smokes pot in front of her kids and thinks it’s cool and I just think it’s disgusting,'” Behar said in an interview with INSIDER.

Behar said she is open about cannabis use with her children but doesn’t smoke the plant around them. She also doesn’t like to smoke, instead consuming low-dose edibles daily and using a vape pen. She finds that these methods help control anxiety that developed when she first became a parent.

“My brain races at a speed that cannot keep up with my emotions,” she said. “For me, cannabis makes it so that the two of them will meet in the middle. My brain will calm the hell down and I stop projecting into the future and thinking of 9,000 things that can go wrong.”

There’s substantial evidence that cannabis can treat chronic pain, nausea caused by chemotherapy, and spasticity symptoms in multiple sclerosis, but only moderate or limited evidence that it helps with several other health issues, according to a 2017 report published by the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering. But it’s worth noting that research on the cannabis has long been limited by regulatory barriers because of its federal classification as a Schedule I drug.

Marijuana edible gummyHollis Johnson/INSIDERINSIDER interviewed cannabis-using mothers who said they experienced judgment.

Behar also recalled speaking with one person who assumed that because she consumes cannabis she uses or has used other drugs, even though she hasn’t. She’s fielded jokes about her cannabis use, too.

“If I’m walking down the street with a bunch of mums that don’t use it and anyone smells weed, they will make a joke about it being me, or if I forget something they’re like, ‘That’s cause you were high,'” Behar said. “For the most part I’m really never high. I really am using it medically. [But people] just assume you’re going to be this deadbeat mum who just wants to get high and not do anything all day.”

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Mum Apie Binkley, 33, said judgment from other people is what motivated her to create Stoner Mums, a Facebook community that’s amassed nearly 24,000 followers since its launch in 2011.

She consumes about two grams of marijuana a week, usually by smoking, and said the drug helps address symptoms caused by her chronic pancreatitis (which leads to frequent, extreme nausea), chronic migraines, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder. She said it’s a misconception that all marijuana-using parents are neglectful.

“My kids aren’t sitting next to me and getting a ‘contact high,’ I don’t have bongs sitting out masquerading as flower vases, and I’m not gonna offer the neighbourhood kids a hit from my bowl,” Binkley told INSIDER in an email. “We aren’t lazy, our houses aren’t piles of messes everywhere because we’re too busy smoking.”

Leslie Siu, 41, a mother of one, uses a low-dose sublingual cannabis spray (she’s the CEO of Mother & Clone, a company that sells sublingual sprays). She told INSIDER the product has helped halt lasting symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety and also serves as a “good alcohol alternative.”

She added that she’s still navigating discussions of marijuana use with other parents now that her child is in preschool.

“Some people I tell [about my cannabis use], some people I withhold it from, just because I’m catching a vibe that they might not be ok with it,” she said. “Of course, if somebody asks, I would be very open about it.”

Behar also said she’s open to conversations about cannabis with other parents.

“You’re welcome to ask me any questions. I don’t think that’s offensive.” she said. “It’s all locked up. And if you don’t want your child to come over and play at my house that’s fine, I’m not going to argue with you.”

Marijuana-using mums question why alcohol is seen as more acceptable than cannabis

WineGetty Images/Renee McKaySome mums felt that alcohol is seen as more socially acceptable.

Alcohol and marijuana are both substances that can cause impairment. But some of the mothers INSIDER spoke with felt that cannabis use is seen as less acceptable for mothers, compared with drinking. (In a 2018 Gallup poll, more Americans viewed alcohol as morally acceptable, compared with marijuana.)

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“It’s socially acceptable for mummy to need a glass of wine after a hard day, but if we spark a joint for the same reasons then we are horrible drug addicts who shouldn’t raise children,” Binkley said. “That ‘Reefer Madness’ mindset is outdated and needed to be challenged.”

“There are t-shirts that say, ‘Bring me wine,’ or ‘Bring mummy wine,'” Behar said. “I don’t really get that at all.”

Parents should be aware of marijuana’s effects

Sheryl Ryan, a pediatrician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, told INSIDER that parents should be aware of the known effects of weed’s active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), including slowed reaction times or feelings of paranoia and anxiety.

She also cautioned against smoking the plant near children. Although research in this area is limited, there is some concern that secondhand marijuana smoke could be harmful for children because of toxins and tar present in the smoke, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Marijuana pregnancy riskssruilk/ShutterstockMarijuana’s physical effects could affect parenting skills.

“There are known side effects and intoxicating effects and the parent needs to be informed of these so they don’t put their parenting skills at risk,” Ryan said. “You shouldn’t be putting yourself in a position where that might endanger your children, you shouldn’t be driving if you’re intoxicated.”

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What marijuana really does to your body and brain

But not every person or parent uses marijuana to the point of being impaired. Cannabis use can vary greatly in terms of method (smoking, vaping, edibles, and more) and the amount consumed.

“I think the conversation should be, it’s your business if you want to smoke this,” Ryan said. “If you are [using marijuana] and you know you’re not going to be in a position where your being intoxicated could affect how you take care of your children, I think that’s up to the adult. That’s their business. I think that’s up to the adult. That’s their business.”

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