While a glass of wine after work is widely accepted, cannabis is generally stigmatized as dangerous and unhealthy. (Only eight states have legalized recreational use and arrests for marijuana possession outnumber arrests for violent crimes.) But now that rec is legal in Nevada, parents feel more comfortable opening up about cannabis consumption, shaking that stigma within their own households.
Shanna Michelle Williams, 43, has five children who have been aware of her cannabis use since they were little. After her daughter’s high school graduation, the two smoked together for the first time. She says that cannabis has helped both of them with the anxiety and depression that came after the loss of her husband.
“We smoked, we laughed and just talked about old memories. We cried. … Those [moments] are priceless,” Williams says, smiling as she recalls her daughter’s face when she lit the mouse-shaped bowl. “[When we smoke] she can open up and tell me anything, and there will be no judgment. I can help her through any hard times that she has, and celebrate her milestones with greater emphasis because we have this bond together.”
Herbal Mothers is a Facebook group for moms like Williams. The group was started by RaRa Rivera, a mother who suffered from severe postpartum depression. At the time, Rivera was too anxious to leave her house to go to the grocery store. She says that cannabis helped her open up and become more appreciative.
The Facebook forum allows mothers to talk to each other openly about consumption. Since legalization, Rivera has hosted several meetups for families to get together and connect over baked goods and wax pens.
Keeta Simonë, who’s attended an Herbal Mothers meetup, grew up in the Caribbean. She says marijuana was just a part of the culture and how her community related to the world. But it wasn’t an integral part of her life until she moved to Vegas and learned more about cannabis’ medicinal properties after her mother started having seizures.
“She was given a number of different medications over the years and we started to become really concerned about it because medications stack up in your system,” Simonë says. She began looking for alternatives and started sending canna oil to her mother, who lives in a different state. Within two weeks she stopped having seizures and hasn’t had one since.
Simonë has a 15-month-old son and plans to educate him on the healing benefits of marijuana when he is older. “I think as a culture, we do ourselves a disservice. Usually, when someone is introduced to cannabis, it’s about getting high or partying,” Simonë says. “There’s so much more to this plant. There are nutritional benefits, there are medicinal benefits. I think as a mom it’s my responsibility to let him know about this plant at least from that standpoint.”
Chloe Sadhvani is the mother of 16-month-old Kush, who is named after cannabis. She heard about Herbal Mothers through the news. She says it’s a relief to connect to other moms who understand her. Sadhvani has polycystic ovarian syndrome and she uses cannabis help manage chronic pain. She also uses it to for post-traumatic stress disorder from sexual abuse trauma.
“Being abused, I have blackouts for maybe five minutes at a time. [Kush] could climb up the sofa, fall and break his arm. But if I’m having one of those blackouts or a trigger, I can smoke some weed, take an edible, take a tincture under the tongue and just relax for a second. Inhale. Exhale. It’s over. It’s that quick,” Sadhvani says. “There is no other pill on the market that’s going to do that for you.”
But while marijuana has had a positive influence for many in the Herbal Mothers group, there are counterarguments to its healing properties. Marijuana is still not a FDA-approved drug, and according to the CDC, marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. There is evidence consumption can lead to addiction, breathing difficulties and short-term memory decline, as well as attention and learning deficits. A common criticism is that marijuana is a gateway drug (what Sadhvani calls a “gateway to the fridge”).
“You can go anywhere worldwide and people consume marijuana products. There’s something to that,” says Simply Pure vegan chef Stacey Dougan. She is the mother of 2-year-old Zion. Dougan and the other Herbal Mothers say the best practice to confront the potential dangers is talking about it. When Zion is older, she would be comfortable smoking with him, but would want to set clear boundaries for their mother-son relationship. “Sometimes those lines can be blurred, so it’s important that a parent sits down with [their] child and say, ‘Hey, this is what I expect, this is what you expect,’” she says. “Just make sure communication is open.”