Bethany Robson:

Ingredients for parental sanity

In my world, parental sanity is spelt C-A-N-N-A-B-I-S. It’s my little secret and for a long time, I’ve kept it that way. When I was originally asked to write about using weed as a parent, my first thought was, “Absolutely not!”, but my curiosity was immediately spiked. How come?

Logically speaking, both the cannabis and the parenting communities are too large to exclude each other. But as a society, we like to pretend that they don’t have anything to do with one another. Not only that, it seems to be a topic of conversation that’s actively avoided.

I consider myself a baby rebel. I’m not a full-blown rebel but I like to ask big questions and I don’t like to maintain the status quo. Thinking about this, it’s high time to shed a little light on the parenting-with-cannabis community. Obviously, that meant I had to reconsider my objections.

As part of this column, I will be speaking to different people each month about how their views on this overlap. My first order of business is to find a parent to talk to about their take on this hidden community. Before I get there, though, an introduction is in order. It makes sense to first share with you a little bit about my own consumption, and how my relationship with cannabis has changed over the years.

I didn’t actually start using cannabis until well after I had kids. I started smoking just a few years ago. It’s funny in retrospect, because growing up, I only knew of cannabis as an evil plant that bad kids used when they were trying to get back at their parents for making them go to bed early. I’m sure that’s not what my parents actually said, but that’s definitely what I took away from the idea of pot-smoking.

I changed my mind about it when I found that I could use cannabis to help with anxiety and depression. My family has struggled with mental health for as long as I can remember, in various forms. I’ve been on and off various anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications over the years and they’ve all sucked. A close friend of mine started using cannabis to help her with her anxiety and she was able to go medication-free, so I thought I’d see if it would work for me. Initially I started using tinctures and caramels, but eventually I switched to smoking instead.

It took me a while to get used to using cannabis as a parent. When I first started smoking, my neighbour also smoked, so we’d go share a joint while our kids were asleep. I wouldn’t smoke during the day while they were up, so if I needed anything before bedtime, I’d use my edibles and tough it out. Our family was living in my hometown at the time and the attitude toward cannabis was pretty stereotypical, so I kept my smoking to myself for the most part. There’s a lot of judgement in the parenting community at the best of times, and with that kind of attitude, I wasn’t keen to address the stigma.

I changed my mind once we moved to Victoria, though. Our family lives with my sister and brother-in-law now, who are both much more open with their cannabis use, so it’s become less of a big deal. My husband also started using it, and we’re both better parents for it.

Now that it’s around more often, I’ve made a point of discussing cannabis with my children. Since the move, they have become a lot more familiar with it. With four adults in the house using it regularly, I thought it would be better for them to understand what it was instead of stumbling upon it accidentally. We had a talk one day about medications and I showed them what a bud looked like, and why I thought they shouldn’t use it yet. They’re still too young to really understand what’s going on, but my youngest son took a sniff of the bag with my bud in it and declared that it smelled like his uncle. We also talked about smoking and why they weren’t allowed to come join us.

I find the stigma around cannabis use and parenting to be the most frustrating thing I’ve run across. It seems like you can joke about bringing wine to a playdate at the park but if you were to mention a joint, you might be unfriended. To me, it should be the other way around. Alcohol is way worse for decision making, in my opinion. I would like to see it become a less taboo subject.

Since cannabis was legalized last year, I definitely feel less nervous about using it. Being a parent with anxiety, I used to be paranoid that I was going to leave my kids motherless by getting arrested for smoking a joint on my deck. Now that it’s legal, it’s not something I worry about as much. Legalization doesn’t change my views on cannabis itself though; they should have done it ages ago.