Many of the same marginalized groups that the war on drugs affected are now being the hardest hit by the pandemic — namely, Black women. Charlita Brown, a single mom and the owner of Oakland delivery concierge Euphorium, says this year has been catastrophic for Black moms especially.
Their fears have flared up, from protecting their children from Covid-19, fearing another term for Donald Trump, racial injustice, and waking up to an orange sky. Brown can’t shake the emotion of one mom she spoke with when Covid-19 took over in March who was hysterically crying on the phone.
“When you peel the layers back, it’s so much to be stressed about,” says Brown.
Brown’s customers who can’t afford childcare and “are stressed the fuck out from homeschooling” have turned to cannabis for help with anxiety, sleep, and finding some mental space.
It’s important to recognize the privilege of white women like me who are now dabbling in weed for fun when racist laws and police practice around marijuana has historically caused irreparable damage to families, especially Black families, across the country. Black families are more susceptible to legal intervention, even in decriminalized states. The policies vary from state to state, but if a blood test reveals marijuana in a mother who has just delivered, the repercussions could range from arrest to the child being taken away.
It’s for that reason, paired with a lack of public education and research, that the taboo around cannabis and mothering remain. One especially fraught topic: using weed during pregnancy and breastfeeding, two very stressful periods of a woman’s life. Because there has been so little research on the effects of marijuana use by a mother on her baby, nearly all doctors universally recommend avoiding it. Emily Oster, author of data-driven parenting books Expecting Better and Cribsheet, sums up the most recent Canadian study from 2019 with more than 600,000 women in Ontario urging “caution” for use during pregnancy.
A 2019 survey of 700 moms by cannabis educator and retailer Miss Grass revealed the main uses of cannabis during pregnancy are reducing nausea and stress, yet 51% of the moms hid their consumption from professional contacts.
Of the mamas interviewed, Golden was the only one who said she used cannabis while pregnant. “I used very small amounts of THC once a day before swimming, for relaxation,” she said. “I also mixed raw flower into my pregnancy teas. I used a cannabis tincture during labor to help with the pain.” Golden says she was in a high-stress situation with her newlywed husband during her pregnancy and felt that being less anxious was the most important thing for her growing baby. Again, doctors recommend against this, and you should consult your own physician before making a personal decision.
While most medical professionals agree to avoid marijuana use while pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding — periods when anxiety and depression can hit women hard — is a different story. I know this personally.
After the first five months with my son, I developed debilitating postpartum anxiety. In a desperate attempt to get myself together, I started taking an anti-anxiety medicine my doctor assured me was safe for breastfeeding. He said that such a small amount would get to my son through my milk that it is deemed safe. Within a day, I felt more like myself, but my already waning libido had vanished, and I was uncomfortable taking something unnatural while I was still breastfeeding. A friend told me about a friend of hers who was taking CBD for postpartum anxiety, and in a flash, I was off to Harborside in Oakland to get my new medicine.
After taking CBD for a few weeks (three to four weeks is recommended for efficacy), I weaned off the anti-anxiety drug. That was a mother’s intuition turning point for me, but I did need the Band-aid of the anti-anxiety medication to get there.
I made my decision based on my own research. Sources from the medical field seem to always recommend not consuming cannabis during breastfeeding. And then pro-cannabis sources reveal the other side of the coin. It all comes down to the need for more research and what you’re comfortable with personally.
Like any medicine, finding the right dosage and type can take some trial and error. But with the support system of other moms, we can find guidance. And the more we talk about it, the more we will learn and the more normalized it will become.
“I’d like to see a revision of the policies around mothers who consume cannabis,” said Golden. “I believe that mild use can make us better parents with more creativity and patience to offer our kids. It’s frightening that this medicine can be used as a reason to separate mothers from their children. It also feels sexist since we often give up so much of our physical autonomy to become mothers in the first place.”
Being a mom or any parent in 2020 has been next-level survival mode. If it’s acceptable to turn to pharmaceuticals or alcohol to get by, I feel okay with my decision to opt for half a gummy made from a plant instead.