Motherhood is many things. It is beautiful, it is messy, it is really damn hard, it is fun, it is dramatic, it is challenging, it is rewarding. The role of Mother is arguably one of the most judged positions on Earth. Pore over any of the social media sites and it won’t take long to find a mother being judged for any number of reasons large or small. I reviewed social media to gather some of this data. After a couple minutes of review, I noted that moms are being judged for using bug spray on their kids, feeding their children fast food, feeding their kids a vegan diet, exposing their kids to the sun, giving their kids smart devices, clothing their kids in non-organic cotton, shopping at Walmart, leaving their 10 year old in the car during a quick stop into a gas station for a cup of coffee, consuming cannabis, and drinking wine. Except moms are not being judged for drinking wine. They’re being embraced because of their decision to drink a couple glasses of wine after a long day with their kiddos! Why? Because alcohol is normalized and accepted in our culture. The moms who choose to use cannabis though? These moms are perhaps the most judged of the lot. Because, stigma. Honestly, that’s one of the main reasons for this discrepancy between the wine drinking mothers and the cannabis-consuming mothers. It’s stigma.
So let’s review a few of the reasons, inaccurate data, and common themes as to why stigma keeps cannabis-consuming mothers in the closet, and how we can stop stigma from being a point of judgement for these mothers.
1. Cannabis impairs a mother’s ability to care for her child or children.
It certainly can, but in many cases, mothers who consume cannabis for the purpose of treating symptoms related to chronic conditions enjoy relief, thereby helping these mothers be present and available to care for their child and/or children. In my practice, I find that mothers do not want to be high while taking care of their kids. However, they do want to relieve their symptoms. To this end, there are many different strains that don’t promote the stoned effect that the THC-rich ones do. Cannabidiol, aka CBD — is a non-psychoactive powerhouse cannabinoid with analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory properties to name just a few of its benefits. And there are many cannabis products that have been created with this therapeutic element in mind. But stigma only makes simple equations. In this scenario, cannabis consumption equates to being a bad parent.
2. Kids should not be exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke.
True. Kids should not be exposed to cannabis in any way unless they are being treated for their own chronic condition, and ideally, there is oversight by a qualified health professional. Scientists, researchers, and medical professionals are still determining the long-term impacts that cannabis could have on the developing brain. However, there are other methods of cannabis consumption. Most of the mothers I know prefer discreet methods of consumption that keep their children safe from these potential harms. Edibles, medibles, using a vaporizer, tinctures, transdermal patches are just a few of the administration methods preferred by the incredible cannabis-consuming mothers that I know. And the ones who decide to smoke a bowl after a long day of chasing their kiddos? You know, the mothers who just want to relax with a little help from cannabis? Most make sure they consume somewhere out of the way of their kids, usually after the kids are tucked into bed.
3. This one’s a biggie: Cannabis concentrates in breastmilk.
Breastfeeding mothers are some of the most judged people period. It seems that once a woman becomes pregnant, she enters into a place where boundaries are no longer apparent. Everyone has an opinion on what she should eat, what she should do or shouldn’t do. The opinions and judgments only continue for the breastfeeding mother. A common theme held in the mainstream medical field — cannabis is concentrated in breastmilk. Meaning that somehow, it was conceived that a baby exposed to THC via breastmilk would intake upwards of 8 times the amount of THC that the mother consumed. The study that came to this conclusion had just two subjects and was conducted in 1982. This antiquated data also fuels stigma.
Earlier this year, Dr. Thomas Hale and his colleague, Dr. Theresa Baker, commenced a study to determine if the old information that explicitly states that THC passes through breastmilk, and is concentrated in breastmilk, is actually accurate. After all, it is his authored resource — Medications and Mothers’ Milk — that has bolstered this stigma for cannabis-consuming mothers.
For years, Dr. Hale’s publication has conveyed the data from that 1982 study. Drs. Hale and Baker have now determined that this data is not supported by the known information about lactation and cannabis metabolism in the human body. In fact, Drs. Hale and Baker have discussed that there is no mechanism by which THC would increase in breastmilk. They have also concluded that storage of cannabis metabolites in breast tissue is very minimal, and that THC specifically metabolizes in real time — meaning a mother who is nursing her child while under the influence of cannabis may expose her baby to THC for the first few hours, but potential exposure does not persist once the mother is no longer under the influence. Therefore, with this information on board, mothers who choose to use cannabis should refrain from breastfeeding for a couple hours following administration. Do you know who else should refrain from breastfeeding for a couple hours after consumption? Mothers who choose to consume wine.
There are all kinds of mothers on the spectrum of motherhood. Good ones, bad ones, and everything in between. Keeping mothers in the cannabis closet places them and their children at risk. How? We are communal creatures who depend on our communities to thrive. The notion that it takes a village is very true. Every mother depends on her village to help her as she raises her children. Stigma is isolating and promotes distrust of the community at large. Therefore, stigma harms mothers if it isolates her and her children. Harming mothers — the typical primary caregivers for the next generation of human beings since the beginning of time — hurts all of us. It’s time we rise above stigmas like this for the benefit of each other, for the benefit of our fellow humans.
For parents who live in states where cannabis is not legal. The stigma you face is not just based in antiquated beliefs and propaganda, there are also potential legal ramifications for being a parent who happens to consume cannabis. Please familiarize yourself with your own state’s laws to protect yourself and your family.
In closing, I would just like to say that I am a proud Mom who Elevates. Cannabis helps me effectively treat chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Cannabis helps me to rest and relax. Cannabis helps me to be a better Mom. I am proud to stand with other mothers who choose this plant to promote rest, relaxation, improve their health, and to be present in the lives of their children. I refuse to let stigma stand in my way. I hope you feel empowered to come out of the cannabis closet and step into the light as well.
My Take On It: What I learned from Thomas Hale, R.Ph., Ph.D. (2017, February 1). Retrieved from https://www.elephantcircle.net/circle/2017/2/1/my-take-on-it-what-i-learned-from-thomas-hale-rph-phd
Perez-Reyes M, Wall ME. Presence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in human milk. N Engl J Med. 1982;307:819–820. [PubMed]