Once someone becomes a mother, they also become an advocate. Mothers advocate for their children in education, health care, relationships, and more. But what about those moms who are not only doing advocacy for their children but for other people’s children and for the interest of humanity overall?

Mothers make approximately 80% of health care decisions for their children and are more likely to be the caregivers when a child falls ill. Additionally, moms are responsible for about two-thirds of household purchasing decisions. Pairing these two data points suggests mothers collectively hold the power to create real change with their voices and their dollars. 

When women—especially mothers—have banded together and gotten politically active, there’s a track record for success in making real change. The Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform was organized on May 28, 1929, in Chicago and financed by voluntary contributions. At its peak, the organization had more than a million members—50,000 in New York alone. In no small part because of the organization, alcohol prohibition ended in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment that repealed the 18th. Additionally, since the late 1970s, one of the most visible grassroots organizations, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has had a significant impact in addressing the problems caused by driving under the influence. Since its inception, the organization has been successful in the enactment of more than 1,000 new laws at both the local and national levels, including minimum drinking age, server liability laws, and sobriety checkpoints. 

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Who are the changemakers when it comes to cannabis legislation? We chat with some of the moms on the front lines of cannabis advocacy.

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Jamie Kacz

Executive director of NORML KC, board secretary of New Approach Missouri 

Kansas City, Missouri 

Since 2015, Jamie Kacz has been advocating for cannabis reform and leading the charge in the middle of America’s heartland, beginning with founding the Kansas City, Missouri, chapter of NORML. Shortly after some initial advocacy successes through NORML, Kacz helped with multiple ballot measures and other pieces of legislation in Missouri. 

These include working on the Kansas City decriminalization campaign in 2017 and leading the New Approach Missouri medical marijuana campaign (Amendment 2) in 2018, which successfully amended the Missouri Constitution to legalize medical marijuana. Since passing Amendment 2, she has been working closely with local lawmakers for the past three years on a parental protections bill for medical marijuana patients. 

“This is something that I am very passionate about, and a problem that has been an issue in other states as legalization expands. We wrote language with a local family court attorney and found supportive lawmakers to file our bill,” she says. 

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Most recently, Kacz helped draft the language for the Legal Missouri 2022 Adult-Use Initiative and ensured that patient and consumer protections were included in it. 

“We included parental protections, tenant protections, employee protections, expanded our current caregiver/patient cultivation system, and have expungement procedures for non-violent marijuana offenses,” she says. 

Q&A

Do you feel that being a mother plays a role in your cannabis advocacy, and if so why? Yes, I believe being a mother plays an important role in everything in my life, and cannabis advocacy is no different. As a mother, my children are always my No. 1 priority, and I strive to make positive changes in my community for them. I want them to grow up knowing the facts and not the false narrative that still exists around marijuana. Most importantly, I want them to know that everyone can (and should) use their voice to stand up and make a difference for those that can’t. 

Why are parents (as activists/advocates) one of the most impactful forms of advocacy for policy change when it comes to cannabis law reform? 

One of the concerns that comes with marijuana reform is the question about the children. There is much propaganda around legalization and increases in underage marijuana consumption. From recent research, we know this is simply not true. It is imperative that parents as advocates use their voices to help break down the stigma associated with marijuana use. When it comes to policy change, lawmakers want to hear from their constituents, and parents as advocates need to ensure their views and personal stories are heard. I have known lawmakers to change opinions after meeting a family that has a child that suffers from a condition that could be treated with marijuana, and sometimes all it takes is a heartfelt story explaining the life-changing effects of cannabis in the family’s lives. When it comes to marijuana policy change, parents as advocates should be front and center to lead these efforts.

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Whitney Beatty 

CEO of Apothecarry Brands, CEO of Josephine & Billies, VP of Supernova Women 

Los Angeles, California 

Whitney Beatty’s advocacy runs deep and seeps into many areas of the cannabis industry. As a board member and vice president of Supernova Women, an organization founded in 2015 for women of color to help them get into the cannabis sector, she successfully advocated for the first social equity program out of Oakland, California. 

She’s the founder and CEO of Apothecarry Brands, a company manufacturing high-end odor-proof storage cases. She serves as the vice president of the Cannabis Equity Retailer Association for group advocacy efforts in L.A. And her dispensary, Josephine & Billies, was one of the first to focus on women of color.

“It’s about education. Communities of color have been disproportionately disenfranchised by the war on drugs for years, and in legalization we have not been participating across the board, really,” Beatty says. “Women of color are least likely to have access to medical care, and when they do, doctors are least likely to listen to them or to offer medicine they can afford.” 

Josephine & Billies plans to have a designated parking spot for moms when their curbside pickup gets set up. 

“I can’t bring my kid to work. If we had a grocery store with a liquor aisle or tobacco store, or a pharmacy with prescription meds, our kids wouldn’t be banned from crossing the threshold into our business. It makes it all the more difficult for moms to work in this industry,” she says.

Q&A

Do you feel that being a mother plays a role in your cannabis advocacy, and if so why? 

Absolutely. I am the mother of a small Black boy, and I can never forget that. There are prisons filled with Black boys who went to prison for the same thing that I am doing to make a living right now. I have not only a responsibility to change the narrative in the cannabis space but I have a responsibility to change the way the industry looks at my community, and the industry needs to acknowledge the price paid by my community. There are reparations that need to be made. We have to know that, at this moment in time, there are people who are sitting in prison because of cannabis, and the majority of them are Black men. I am raising a Black man, and it is an amazing privilege that my son can say, “My mom sells plant medicine.” But I have to stand up and advocate every day to make sure other people’s kids aren’t going to prison for this. 

Why are parents (as activists/advocates) one of the most impactful forms of advocacy for policy change when it comes to cannabis law reform? 

If you want to get something done, get a mama bear to do it. There’s no more passion than that of a parent because we know what is at stake. I work harder because I am doing it for my child. I advocate harder because I know the future that I want my child to live in. I want him to be in the future where the color of his skin is not going to dictate if someone is going to pull him over and pull him out of the car and treat him unfairly for plant medicine. That future does not come to pass unless I put in the work. I have an obligation to use my position as an advocate. I advocate on the inside and the outside. When you have lived through the war on drugs, and seen your neighbor’s house kicked in and seen what happened to your community when the vast majority of the Black men in your community have been sent to prison, that makes you afraid of using the plant as well. People need to know that it’s not the plant’s fault, that it is the fault of a systematically racist system. Education has to be done on every side of this in order for us to right the wrongs that are out there, but it is important to be done and that access is there for all communities.

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Samantha Montanaro 

Co-Founder and CEO of Tokeativity 

Portland, Oregon 

While actively working in and advocating for the cannabis industry, Samantha Montanaro is also continually engaged on a grassroots level. Some of the things she does include writing to her legislators about any impending law changes, sharing about cannabis laws on her personal social media and email list, and holding space for conversations around cannabis law reform in her relationships. 

“People are swamped with communications… being able to have a candid conversation without fear of judgment or argument is really important for advocacy in general,” she says.

Montanaro’s company, Tokeativity, a global feminist community for active cannabis culture, takes its platform, community, and ability to make change seriously. They’ve done things like organizing signature collection and lobby days; releasing creative campaigns that work to facilitate change; bringing awareness to organizations that are advocating for cannabis law reform; hosting events centered around advocacy and personal empowerment; and bringing awareness to the importance of individual involvement with policy change. 

Q&A

Do you feel that being a mother plays a role in your cannabis advocacy, and if so why? 

Being a mother has been one of the most important reasons why I became an advocate for cannabis. I do not want my son—or anyone else’s child for that matter—to grow up in a world where fear-mongering and propaganda influence their personal choices—especially around health care and wellness. People deserve to know the truth, and the truth is that the racist drug war was created to capitalize on commodities other than hemp and cannabis, as well as to keep people of color in marginalized positions of power. Cannabis is not harmful—for-profit law enforcement and prisons are harmful. Future generations deserve to know the truth, and I should not have to live in fear of losing my child because I choose plants over pills for my wellness. 

Why are parents (as activists/advocates) one of the most impactful forms of advocacy for policy change when it comes to cannabis law reform? 

Parents, and particularly mothers, have the most judgment around their personal choices. Parents are the caretakers of future generations. Mom “knows what’s best.” Parents can be the most impactful in cannabis law reform because they stand to challenge the false narratives that have been fed to generations and be heard. When a respected mother stands up for plant medicine, she breaks the cycle of false information and plants a seed of doubt on the current system. If this mom or dad has multiple children, a job, home, etc… and uses cannabis, they challenge this idea that cannabis consumers are “lazy stoners.” Parents have more power than they realize every single day to help change policy and cannabis law reform.

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Jocelyn Harris 

Founder and Executive Director of Mommies and Mary Jane 

Woodbridge, Virginia 

Jocelyn Harris describes her advocacy work as mostly on a grassroots level through organic community interactions that help enlighten and inspire economic insight for communities most in need of reconciliation. She created Mommies and Mary Jane, a fledgling parent organization working toward a nonprofit status, to push for health and safety to be at the forefront of adult and medicinal cannabis use. The group helps parents navigate the intricacies of cannabis through education and resource allocation. 

“It doesn’t really matter if you consume the plant or not. Parent support and community re-education, at this point, is non-negotiable, especially since cannabis is ‘essential,’” she says.

Harris has made an intentional effort to align with the organizations that are doing the boots-on-the-ground social justice work in Virginia. Her organization has signed on to several letters—Marijuana Justice, ACLU Virginia, RISE for Youth, and Drug Policy Alliance—that were sent to the governor laying out criteria for marijuana legalization that centers around racial equity, especially in terms of the people and communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.

Q&A

Do you feel that being a mother plays a role in your cannabis advocacy, and if so why? 

Being a mother plays a major role in my cannabis advocacy. It’s not the reason I began but it definitely helped light my fire. As a parent, I have sincere compassion for those families that have been most impacted by the war on cannabis for generations. We can’t undo the detriment, but we have to be ever so careful not to repeat it or turn a blind eye. Can you imagine being a parent in modern-day America, where cannabis is “essential,” and still sitting in prison? Still, missing out on your kid’s holidays and birthdays for a cannabis-related crime that the same people who prosecuted you are now first in line reaping the benefits and influencing the rules? That’s tough. When I first became a mom, I worked through postpartum depression and anxiety by consuming cannabis. This reestablished a deeper sense of confidence and credibility for cannabis as medicine in my life. I really believe that responsible parents who consume deserve to live stigma-free lives without fear of persecution or judgment. Period. 

Why are parents (as activists/advocates) one of the most impactful forms of advocacy for policy change when it comes to cannabis law reform? 

I feel that parents as advocates are one of the most impactful forms of advocacy for policy change when it comes to cannabis law reformation because we’ve been advocating for our kids’ health, safety, education, and well-being from preconception on into adulthood. Our ability to be rational thinkers shows that parents make some of the best change agents. It doesn’t really matter if you consume the plant or not; but parent support and community re-education, at this point, is non-negotiable, especially since cannabis is “essential.” I’ve witnessed parents of teens and college-aged students reactively searching for solutions after their child is faced with legal consequences and ineligibility for financial aid in a “legal” state… it’s tough. Parent advocacy is our shot at being proactive with preventive measures.

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Bianca Snyder

Founder of High Society Mama, CEO Society’s Plant 

Southwest Michigan 

“Once we normalize cannabis for mothers, that is when it will be normal for all of society.” 

Bianca Snyder is an advocate for natural wellness and plant medicine with a mission to spread the power of the plant. In 2012, she and her husband, Tad, purchased their farm in southwest Michigan and began growing their own food and plant medicine. Then, they started their company, Society’s Plant, in 2019 after Michigan issued the pilot program for hemp after the 2018 Farm Bill. Snyder continually strives to inspire mothers to be confident in their choice to consume cannabis, as well as to be open and speak out about their cannabis use. This is especially apparent in her messaging on her social media platform, High Society Mama, where she gives calls to action for civic engagement and works to unite mothers so they can converse about cannabis. 

“I believe that once we normalize cannabis for mothers, that is when it will be normal for all of society,” she says. 

In addition to her current advocacy work through her active social platform, Snyder is starting to work with WISE (Women’s Initiative for a Safe and Equitable Florida), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to build support for sensible cannabis policy reform. 

Q&A

Do you feel that being a mother plays a role in your cannabis advocacy, and if so why? Yes. I think that moms will be the catalyst for change in the industry because of the standards that mothers are held to. The stigma of mothers consuming cannabis is much stronger than for others who consume, and that is why it’s important for moms to have their own movement where they can be open about their cannabis use, because that openness is a catalyst for change. 

Why are parents (as activists/advocates) one of the most impactful forms of advocacy for policy change when it comes to cannabis law reform? 

Politicians listen to mothers because, as a society, we care a lot about the well-being and safety of our children. So, when parents reach out to politicians about concerns, it holds a certain weight that is very powerful. When parents (and mothers, especially) can come together, it can make change… it can make waves, instead of ripples that the rest of society could make.

Interested in advocating? Here’s how to start.

Learn who your legislators are. Most state government home pages have a window where you can type in your address, and the system will tell you whose district you are in and who your state senator and state representative are. The system will likely also tell you your senator and representative in Washington, D.C. Learn their names and what issues they have in their platforms and keep their emails and phone numbers handy. Communicate with them about your thoughts as a constituent and encourage them to support legislation regarding cannabis law reform.

Talk with your friends and neighbors about your thoughts on cannabis law reform.Share your opinions and resources, answer questions, and give them information in areas where they are not educated. If your friends are receptive to it, have them do step one as well. Power in numbers is the best way to be impactful when it comes to the decisions your legislators are making as public servants on your behalf.

Find out who the change-makers are near you, whether that be a NORML chapter or a more independent, localized advocacy group. Even if you don’t want to become a member or attend meetings and events, knowing who they are and the work they do is important.

From here you can just go bigger. Do you want to take a role in a local advocacy group? Organize a letter-writing campaign or lobby day demonstration? Fundraise for a group or leader you support? Start your own grassroots group or campaign? Help is needed everywhere and the options are endless.

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Leah Maurer
Website | + posts

Leah Maurer is a mother of three, canna-journalist, and activist who lives in Portland, Oregon. She is a co-owner of The Weed Blog, a cannabis news and information publication, where she serves as the Editorial Lead. She helped found New Approach Oregon, Moms for YES on Measure 91, and the Portland Chapter of Women Grow.