Women, and mothers especially, stand to be one of the most collectively pivotal voices in the cannabis movement, and, really, in drug law reform overall.  The changes we have seen in cannabis policy over the last several years in the United States are arguably due to the voices (and votes) of women and mothers, and the paradigm is gradually shifting.

However, even in states with legalized cannabis programs, the stigma that surrounds the cannabis plant and the people who use it still exists. Mothers are stigmatized more often than other groups of cannabis consumers, with their very integrity and the safety of their children being questioned in both social settings and with law enforcement. However, mothers are slowly coming out of their “green closets” and encouraging others to do the same. Once cannabis consumption is normalized for mothers, it will be accepted by the rest of society and the prohibition of this plant will finally come to an end.

Mothers are Innate Activists

Once you become a mom, you become an activist in ways you never thought were possible.  You have someone to advocate for at every step of their life…whether that be with a teacher, doctor, coach, or with other parents and children.  Mothers have also been sharing information and experience with each other since the beginning of time about topics such as breastfeeding, diapering, nutrition, schooling, parenting, products…you name it. Now, with cannabis legalization becoming more prevalent in the U.S., moms are sharing their thoughts about that as well. Thoughts about cannabis as medicine for themselves and their loved ones, thoughts about talking to the children about cannabis, thoughts about cannabis use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, thoughts about the atrocities that have happened for decades to targeted communities because of the racist criminalization of cannabis, and thoughts about cannabis as an alternative to alcohol in adult-use settings.

Mothers who have the privilege of living in states with legalized cannabis have a civic duty to have these conversations, whether that be with their book or garden clubs or with their legislators. We are at a point in history where it is essential that we are sharing our stories, both to help continue responsible cannabis law reform and for those mothers whose voices have been taken away. Mothers must use that activist skill set they have gained by becoming parents to help right the wrongs of cannabis prohibition, regardless of the level of impact.

Just a few weeks ago, on Mother’s Day (2021) nearly 150,000 incarcerated mothers will spend the day apart from their children. 58% of all women in U.S. prisons are mothers, as are 80% of women in jails. Most of these women are incarcerated for non-violent offenses (including a large percentage for drug possession alone). Most are also the primary caretakers of their children, meaning that punishing them with incarceration tears their children away from a vital source of support.There is a dire need for prison reform in our country, where our mass incarceration problem has been fueled for decades by the racist criminalization of cannabis and the overall drug war.

Be a voice for the moms who don’t have one.

Women Helped Overturn Alcohol Prohibition

Women have serious political power when they put they unite and work towards reform together. We have seen this happen before with other issues, but will focus on alcohol prohibition since many draw a parallel here with cannabis prohibition.

The Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) was organized on May 28th, 1929 in Chicago. Five national committees were formed, including: Investigation, Publicity, Speakers’ Bureau, Legislative, and Membership. The organization was financed by voluntary contributions and at their peak they had over a million members (50K in New York alone). In no small part due to the WONPR, Prohibition ended in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st amendment repealing the 18th. As a bi-partisan, single-issue organization, the WONPR was able to unite women and urge politicians who may have disagreed on other issues, and the group sought out non-white and working class women to join their ranks. Women activists—particularly New York women—laid the groundwork for the repeal of alcohol prohibition, and they can do the same in the current political and societal climate in regards to drug law reform.

Weed is the New Wine

Cannabis consuming mothers are becoming increasingly more outspoken about their use.  This is in part because of the vast amount of research that we now see in support of cannabis as medicine, but also because of opinion in support of cannabis being less harmful than alcohol.  We are living in a time where “mommy needs her wine” or “mommy needs her coffee” is entirely socially acceptable, but “mommy needs her weed” is generally not.

While still a federally illegal substance, cannabis in legalized states is now served in everything from low dose gummies to fancy fizzy drinks to sublingual dissolvable strips to mouth sprays and mints.  There are more ways to consume cannabis now than ever before as the industry continues to grow and product innovators work their magic. One of the demographics the industry is most interested in marketing for?  Women.

Women make most of the purchasing decisions for their households.  In fact, Women drive 70-80% of ALL consumer purchasing decisions. While cannabis is still heavily stigmatized even in states with fully legalized adult-use programs, there is still a great deal of interest by many women who want an alternative to alcohol or pharmaceuticals and prescription medications.  No one likes a hangover, and moms learn very quickly that taking care of children with one is far worse than trying to just shake it off for a short day of work.  Cannabis does not have the same effect on the body, but still allows for an option to unwind or release some of the stress and pressure from our busy days. Likewise, many women have been able to replace their prescription pills for anxiety, depression, chronic pain, insomnia, and many more physical or mental health conditions with cannabis products, and have found far less (if any) adverse side effects from this switch.

So, is weed the new wine?  It truly depends on who you ask, but the question is certainly being asked more and more often these days.

Cannabis is Medicine, and We can Prove that Now

Women, and mothers especially, also tend to make most of the healthcare decisions for their households. Women tend to be the caretakers of their parents, siblings, spouses, and children should they fall ill or be diagnosed with a chronic condition. Some mothers have actually been forced to become activists in the world of politics and advocacy because of this.

A prime example of this is Wendy Turner and her journey in advocating for her son Coltyn, who was diagnosed with Chrohn’s Disease at a young age. The family did everything they could and ended up finding that cannabis was the best option for his treatment. “I’d rather be illegally alive than legally dead,” became his mantra and a tagline for their nonprofit, Coltyn’s Crue.

While the CDC and the FDA still have yet to recognize cannabis as medicine (and subsequently kept it classified in the Controlled Substances Act), there is a growing mountain of evidence and experiences that say otherwise. Just a quick Google search will pull up more sources that offer support for cannabis as medicine than sources that do not, and cannabis is actively being studied for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Appetite loss, Cancer, Crohn’s disease, Diseases effecting the immune system like HIV/AIDS or Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Eating disorders such as anorexia, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Multiple sclerosis, Muscle spasms, Nausea, Pain, Seizures, Wasting syndrome (cachexia) to name a few.

There are so many reasons why women and mothers stand to be one of the most collectively powerful voices in ending cannabis prohibition and in drug law reform overall…what is yours? Tell your story, because no matter how big or how small, it counts!!

All the credit in the world goes to my colleague Bianca Snyder, the founder of Society’s PlantHigh Society Mama, a mother, movement lover, and advocate for natural wellness and plant medicine, for the title of this article.

This piece was originally published on The Weed Blog. The author, Leah Maurer, is one of the owners and the editorial lead for The Weed Blog. Check out some of her other pieces here.