Bethany Robson:

No one knows ‘fair’ better than a four-year-old

My interviewee this month is Danielle McInnis, a medical cannabis user and momma to a little girl who’s almost five. Danielle and I are separated by a province, so we sat down to chat over the phone on a kid-free Monday morning. Danielle has been an advocate for cannabis since she was 18, but started consuming from legal channels in 2015. She runs the Instagram account @moms.who.toke.are.dope, and is launching her own brand, CannaParents in the new year.

Danielle’s been a cannabis consumer since her pre-kiddo days. While pregnant with her daughter, she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a genetic disorder affecting connective tissue. She says becoming a parent was: “the first thing that really made me want to try and get my medical prescription… I didn’t want to risk anything coming between me and this new baby that I just felt so much love for.”

After she got a recommendation for medical cannabis from her doctor, she took her advocacy online via social media.

“I deal with a lot of chronic pain. I have rheumatoid arthritis as well. I had it before I ever knew I had EDS, but I went to many doctors and they all refused to test me because I was too young,” Danielle remembers.

“So I just had to keep advocating for myself… my family doctor for over half my life, refused to see me after I brought up cannabis and she then referred me to the ‘weed’ doctor.”

With such a stressful journey through the medical system, I asked Danielle what advice she would give for parents who want to try and advocate for themselves when using cannabis for medical concerns.

“If a parent has medical issues, and they want to advocate for themselves, the first place to go would be a cannabis clinic… there’s also online cannabis clinics,” she says.

Another reason for pursuing a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis is that certain licensed producers may offer compassionate pricing, says Danielle. Under certain insurance plans, consumers may also be entitled to partial reimbursement.

“Believe in yourself and know your body. We have forgotten to listen to our intuition and to ourselves… we used to use plants for medicine,” she says.

“Trusting yourself, listening to your intuition and knowing what’s best for you is really the best thing.”

Stigma is a continued feature of parenting with cannabis, so I wanted to know what Danielle thought about the judgement that comes with being a parent who uses weed. She says she’s at the point where people’s opinions of her medical needs no longer matter.

“If they judge me and they don’t like me, that’s fine. I’ve got people who love me and accept me as I am,” she says.

When she runs into people who are being judgemental, she tries to approach it from, “a place with empathy and compassion, because they don’t know any better.”

“They’ve been told lies their whole lives. I try and come at it as gentle as possible, so that I don’t scare them even more, because they’re only scared because they don’t know,” she says.

“If I keep projecting that fear and give it back to them, it’s just going to keep the cycle going.”

The next question I had was about how she talked to her daughter about cannabis. Danielle’s husband works in the cannabis industry, so she also has to incorporate “Dad’s job” into their discussions.

“We’ve been open with her since the get-go, from birth. That was when cannabis was still illegal and at that point my conversation was a little different,” she says. “I’d be like, ‘you know your daddy, he’s helping people like your mommy get medicine that they need so that they can live their best life’.”

“[When] we made the switch into the legal market, it was interesting because we brought her to a tour of Aurora. And it was really neat for her to see the plants, and you could see it shift in her head that she finally understood what the medicine was, and that it was plant medicine.”

Danielle recalls a trip to Montreal during which she needed some medicine, but couldn’t use the hotel’s balcony to consume her cannabis.

“Why?” her daughter had asked.

“Well, the law says that I can only go smoke over there,” Danielle answered back.

“‘Well that’s not fair!’, she said to me. For a four- year-old to tell me that that the law and regulations aren’t fair…”

Danielle also stated that it’s important to keep communication open: “I don’t try to hide anything from her... It’s the way that parents should approach their kids in everything... You listen to your kid and they’ll come to you for anything. And I want to start that now because when she’s a teenager trying cannabis, I want her to come to me.”

Danielle’s biggest tip for talking with your kids about cannabis is to educate yourself first. She also knows how hard it is to do so with changing regulations and, of course, the stigma. Because of that, she’s launching CannaParents on New Year’s Eve. The brand focuses on educating parents about cannabis, while keeping yourself and your kids safe.