Cannabis-friendly parenting: Are ‘420 moms’ the new ‘wine moms’?

“Mommy juice.”

“It’s a pump and dump kind of day.”

“You’re why mommy drinks.”

For years, the online world of parenting has been pervaded by memes, merchandise and mommy quotes promoting the belief that parenthood necessitates drinking.

But with more and more states legalizing cannabis for the over-21 set, experts project that the cannabis industry will become a $70 billion market by 2028. With many frazzled parents included in that number, it seems marijuana might be replacing wine as the recreational go-to for many moms and dads.

In fact, in 2020 alone, Americans turned to cannabis in record numbers, purchasing $18 billion worth of marijuana, a 71% increase from 2019.

And while alcohol consumption also increased in 2020 — women reportedly increased their heavy drinking days by 41% compared to pre-pandemic life — 57% of parents say they prefer consuming cannabis to drinking.

Why are more parents consuming cannabis recreationally?

According to a survey of 1,122 Americans, parents make up 54% of people who currently use cannabis — and more than half of this group has kids under age 18. That means about 16 million parents of underage children are actively indulging.

“These days, smoking a little pot is becoming more and more acceptable. Gone are the days of thinking of pot users as the stoners from high school, hanging out under the bleachers,” said Anthony Franciosi, industry expert and the founder and head grower of Honest Marijuana Company.

“From the increasing acceptance of medical marijuana to a more relaxed view on recreational use of cannabis, more and more people that you might least expect are getting on board,” Franciosi went on to say.

In fact, data shows that 67% of parents with kids under 18 say that cannabis makes them a better parent.

“In the same way airlines tell you to secure your oxygen mask before helping children and those around you, I believe that responsible cannabis use is a form of self-care which leads to being a better partner and parent,” said Judy Yee, CEO and co-founder of the cannabis-infused tonic Mad Lilly.

Another mom and CEO, Kelsey Brookes, weighed in on why she is pro-cannabis.

“As a mom of a toddler, I have so much anxiety. I’m not keen on loading myself up with prescription meds,” said Brookes, co-founder of Nolah Naturals, a THC and CBD brand designed specifically for women.

“Instead, I can use CBD during the day to lift my mood or shut down the anxiety. After dinner, after my child is asleep, my husband and I enjoy smoking weed like others might enjoy a glass of wine,” Brookes went on to say.

Is consuming cannabis as a parent safe?

With parenting being such an all-consuming full-time job, some may wonder how raising kids and getting high can safely coexist.

According to Brookes, one of the more challenging parts of being a cannabis-friendly parent — aside from the stigma attached to it — is predictive dosing, “because a mom needs to remain alert and ready 24 hours a day.”

And when it comes to dosing, there are many different factors to consider — and how much and when to consume varies for every person and every situation.

“While most of us know how we’ll react to a glass of wine or a beer or two, it will take a little practice to learn what amounts of THC are workable while still being a functioning adult,” said Anthony Franciosi. “It’s important for anyone, parents included, to test that out slowly and carefully. Until you learn what you can and can’t tolerate, it’s best to err on the safe side of consumption.”

But it’s not just parents’ consumption of edibles that need to be closely monitored. Due to their colorful packaging and design, edibles can be very attractive to children, which can lead to dangerous consumption and overdoses.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 132 children under the age of 12 ingested edibles at home in 2016 — but in 2020, that number jumped to almost 2,500.

“One of the problems with edibles is that we don’t know how much THC they contain because they’re not regulated,” said Jessica Madden, MD, board-certified pediatrician.

But according to most cannabis-friendly parents, consuming cannabis in no way impacts their ability to take care of their children.

“Adults can consume [weed] responsibly and still be good parents. They can hold down jobs, pay bills, feed and house their families and provide emotional support. They can teach their kids the social, self-care and intellectual skills life requires, and they — we — shouldn’t be stigmatized,” wrote mom and cannabis user Danielle Simone Brand.

What are some pros and cons of cannabis for parents?

Despite the possible safety concerns and judgment from other parents, cannabis-friendly parents believe there are many advantages to consuming cannabis — and experts agree there can be numerous medicinal benefits.

“The greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and spasticity [tight or stiff muscles] from MS,” Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D., a substance abuse specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, told WebMD.

But cannabis-friendly parents feel there are also many negative side effects of consuming cannabis while raising children.

“The cons are social stigma, risk of dependence, unintentional child exposure and increased risks in areas of work, financial and legal,” said Cameron Howe, a medical cannabis mom and the author of High Expectations.

For some, those legal concerns might be creating “closeted” cannabis-friendly parents. A study found that four in 10 parents who consume cannabis hide their marijuana use. Among those that hide their use, 16% say they do so to prevent it from being discovered by law enforcement.

“Data is limited on whether more moms are smoking now than not because it’s still federally illegal, and there are concerns that the government will remove custody for parents that smoke,” said Howe. “As such, many parents are not forthcoming about smoking or using cannabis.”

And while cannabis-friendly parents feel that cannabis in no way impairs their ability to responsibly raise children, marijuana use might still play a part in how the courts rule during a custody battle.

Although 63% of Americans feel that cannabis use by parents is growing in societal acceptance, 46% still say they would perceive parents (and their parenting abilities) more negatively if the parents consume cannabis responsibly than if they drink alcohol responsibly.

How can parents safely consume cannabis?

Whether consuming marijuana medicinally or recreationally, it’s important for parents to know the facts about cannabis consumption.

The best place to start is to discuss it with your doctor. While some parents might be nervous to disclose their cannabis usage to their care providers, experts say it’s essential.

“If you’re going to use recreationally or medically, you need to be educated about what you’re doing,” Kevin Hill, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed, told the Harvard Gazette.

“Patients who are interested in cannabinoids should be talking to their own doctors about it because ideally, their physician should be the one helping them think through the risks and benefits,” Hill said.

Parents should also be aware of the many different ways to consume cannabis, and what dosage is appropriate for them. Researching the many cannabis forms, and their varying levels of potency, is important — especially when taking care of young children.

And while the CDC states that fatal overdoses of marijuana are unlikely, getting too high can lead to dangerous or fatal accidents. Knowing how to mitigate the feeling of being too high is also important for cannabis-friendly parents.

Parents should also know that marijuana and cannabinoids significantly impair judgment, motor coordination and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability. Experts agree you should never get behind the wheel after consuming cannabis.

Additionally, experts say marijuana users should know how to spot the signs of cannabis use disorder, and how to treat it. While marijuana use is commonly touted as non-addictive, it can lead to the development of problem use.

And of course, when it comes to raising kids in a cannabis-friendly household, it’s essential to know how to keep little ones safe. The Children’s Hospital of Colorado recommends parents purchase a medication lockbox “to provide a safe, convenient and affordable method for securing marijuana products in the home.”

Experts also recommend that parents keep the phone number for the National Poison Control Center in their phones. If you suspect your child has consumed cannabis or a cannabis-infused product, call (800) 222-1222 immediately. Their 24/7 specialists can answer all your questions and direct you to the nearest hospital if need be.

And for parents-to-be, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists plainly states that marijuana and pregnancy do not mix.

“If you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, don’t use marijuana,” the ACOG writes. “If you use marijuana during pregnancy, you may be putting your health and your fetus’s health at risk.”

They add that parents should also avoid marijuana while breastfeeding.

While every parent needs and deserves a way to unwind from the stressors of raising a tiny human, it’s important to do so safely and responsibly — both for your sake, and your child’s.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, call The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-4357 for resources, or find a treatment option near you through The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers directory. Visit the American Addiction Centers website to learn more about the possible signs of substance use disorder.

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