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Women’s History Month — Cannabis & Women

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Women’s History Month 2021 has me reflecting on my own her-story with cannabis and how it has improved my life exponentially. My last 12 months and weed’s (prominent) place in it has helped drive this fact home. I feel immense relief knowing I have a safe, natural, enjoyable helper through the weirdest chapter in my life thus far.

It was months into the pandemic lockdown and I, racked with anxiety, was stress-cleaning, my frustration increasing as the messes of three quarantined people and a mini-Zoo of animals seemed to be whackamoling; new piles-of-whatever popping up the second I cleaned one up. I must’ve been muttering to myself, a pained look etched on my face as I loaded the dishwasher for the 17th time in 24 hours because my intuitive, empathetic child glided up next to me and placed her little hand on my arm. “Mama, do you need a…mom break?” she asked quizzically, cocking her head and gazing at me with the non-judgmental understanding only children possess. She knows me so well. “I think I do – I’ll be back”.

It Is Okay To Take Time For You

I stepped outside, swung in our hammock, smoked a joint of herb grown by a friend, and 15 minutes later I was playing Jenga with my kiddo, my perspective (and tension-filled body) shifted to the present. This is just one-way cannabis shows up in my life and the lives of many, many other women who have spent years (or decades in my case) hiding this essential part of our wellbeing. Quite simply: herb helps me show up as my best self, the calm, present self who – while certainly staying abreast of current events – can compartmentalize better and not allow intrusive anxious thoughts to dominate my mind. I’ve lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder all my life and a mixture of both traditional approaches (including talk therapy, Zoloft, meditation, and exercise) and utilizing cannabis for my overall mental health, has brought me to a wonderful place.

Another way cannabis shows up for me is in my work. Five years ago I professionalized my passion for herb and now work in cannabis education, advocacy, and marketing. What I do is rooted (pun intended!) in helping others in their herbal journey and dislodging stigma around the plant and those who consume it. I’ve built a cannabis education and marketing consulting firm geared toward women, based on lived experience, work as a Sociologist, scientific research, and a deep connection to cannabis as a catalyst for positive social change. Not only do I demystify cannabis, its modalities, and applications. To give my clients functional education to make informed consumption methods, I work tirelessly to debunk myths and misperceptions of the plant, cannabis consumers, and society’s role in vilifying it.

I’m doing this work through the lens of someone who hid her use for decades during traditional careering. I dealt with negative reactions from both those close to me, strangers, and now, as someone who’s done a 180 – effectively coming completely out of the green closet very publicly. I believe everyone in my sphere is aware of my work and lifestyle at this juncture, and for this I’m thankful – I can be my authentic self. I want to dispel the notion that weed-smoking women are lazy, bad moms, drug addicts, or somehow “less than” because of a medicinal herb.

I’m here to show you that you’re perfect the way you medicate or don’t, and how to be non-judgmental with yourself or advocate for cannabis consumers in general, even if you’re not one; You wouldn’t oppose someone’s essential meds if you weren’t on them yourself, right?

Cannabis and Equality

Also, the stakes of the century-long grand slandering of cannabis are huge socially: The BIPOC community is four times more likely to be incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses than whites (at the same time whites use weed at the same or higher rates). Many victims of the war on drugs are women, mothers just like me. As a white woman on a lifelong journey of unpacking my own privilege, and a trained, experienced Sociologist, I’m keenly aware of the disparate impact that the criminalization of this plant alone has had in helping bend the arch of American society toward a racist, sociopathic tome about this plant and her consumers.

It’s for the unfairly incarcerated, our contemporaries, as well as our children and grandchildren that makes this understanding increasingly important as we, white people, each work toward molding a more equitable, anti-racist society; I happen to do it through the lens of cannabis equity as an advocate, mother, educator, patient, and serial normalizer. My example is the result of the concerted normalization of cannabis in my family life, including with a young child, a microdoser husband, and a diverse array of people/belief systems around me. Education, myth-busting, and breaking down long-held social stigmas associated with folks like me – women, parents who use cannabis – are my avenues of making a change in my life, in the lives of my clients, friends, family, and the world. I’m sharing my story in hopes that you find it a resource that you can adapt to your own journey.

Educating Family And Friends About Cannabis

In my personal life, I block and tackle myths regularly as I live with a microdosing, semi-judgey husband. Objectivity speaks to him so I share education resources – I basically send him the science and let him make his own assessment vs relying on him believing me as an expert. While he should, believe me, his life experience makes him extremely skeptical of cannabis culture so scientific data breaks through better than a conversation we might have. With my child, who hears me working and having daily conversations regarding cannabis, it was obvious to me early in her life that I would need to (in developmentally appropriate ways) educate her before someone else did. I’m a product of the DARE era, an experience that left me both misunderstanding and wanderlusting after cannabis, which I don’t want for my child. When my daughter was age 5 we came to an understanding about the cannabis plant. Since some people don’t fully grasp it and its medicinal benefits, if anyone asks her about it, she’s not even allowed to answer a question – she’s to reply “I don’t know” (unless she’s close enough to touch me and I give her the ok).

This is my effort to protect my neck when she’s at school and, even more importantly, this takes the pressure off of her to have nuanced conversations beyond her understanding. In our home, my daughter helps me tend our family veggie garden, houseplants, and yes, cannabis plants; she helps me with the maintenance, names plants based on their “vibe” (ha!). She benefits from the topical salves for her eczema and understands that it’s plant medicine her mama relies on, too. We’ve infused all sorts of foods and treats with CBD oil (the non-intoxicating, calming compound in hemp and cannabis) that she loves and helps her be balanced, as well.

But this concept also highlights the fact that early cannabis education is also a safety issue: my child understands if something edible or drinkable is unmarked or has a cannabis leaf on the label, that it is absolutely medicine and that she’s never, ever to eat anything she finds in the house. While this is very clear to her as a rule, I keep my THC edibles separate from un-infused foods and I’ve never had an issue. This isn’t really a foreign concept since I’ve explained this idea to her for years as it pertains to pharmaceuticals and laundry detergent pods (that look like candy, I might add) – to my kiddo, this is just another thing around the house we use that has guidelines. Again, keeping canna-education developmentally appropriate for her age.

In the lives of clients, friends, and family members I’m often sought out for information when someone wants to use a natural compound to alleviate pain, get better sleep, endure chemo, control anxiety, or just relax; wellness is wellness, even if it feels good, I always say. I’ve been the intermediary for people new to cannabis and have helped folks gain functional education to make informed consumption decisions to safely (and enjoyably) reach whatever goals they have. I’m, essentially, a weed coach. I’ve been able to professionalize my decades-long commitment to learning about the plant, her biologics, and societal underpinnings to help others and destigmatize cannabis culture. One of my closest friends had a bad experience with cannabis 15 years ago, she was essentially too high, and has never used it again because she didn’t like the feelings of paranoia that she experienced.

Literally, until maybe a year ago, she wouldn’t touch anything – even CBD – because of her terrible experience and lack of knowledge of new innovations. I’m understanding of this as I too have had too much THC before and it can really be a major turn-off. But, now, with an array of cannabinoids available and new information that she’s allowed me to share with her about CBD, CBDa, THCa (a game-changer for her!) and now, after some experimentation, my sweet sister-friend and fellow mama is sleeping “100% better” and says that CBD at work during a pandemic has been a mental health savior. It makes me emotional to think how she’s come around because it proves anyone can benefit from this plant and her hundreds of chemical constituents.

Dispelling One Myth At A Time

In the world, I’m not shy about dispelling myths either. I was asked to speak as a cannabis advocate at a recent city planning meeting to use my platform and expertise to lend a pro-cannabis perspective regarding allowing legal dispensaries into an area of San Diego where the majority of the board is made up of anti-weed members. It had been a while since I’d been quite as shocked by my treatment, in all honesty. I started by communicating that keeping licensed shops out means missed economic development and then kindly corrected their antiquated vocabulary (“Marijuana v. Cannabis” context and corrected them when they called dispensaries “drug houses”); moments into my remarks one older, white male board member yelled, “It’s not medicine!” then gruffly walked away from his computer, returning after a minute to see I was still talking saying, “Ugh she’s still talking”.

I was called “Pollyanna” by an older white female board member while another older white female board member typed in the comments  “We’ve heard enough from her”; then female board member #1, sent me multiple private messages directly attacking my character. I was interrupted multiple times then muted. Meanwhile, other, more inclusive board members yielded their time to me and I finished my thoughts. Those same members then reached out privately to both thank me and ask for help in the future. After this experience I closed my laptop, smiled, and then, as I smoked a joint I googled how to run for local office because clearly diversity of thought is needed (and we can make bold, positive change in our own backyards).

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m grateful for all the women who have come before me, who have helped our society to get here. To a place in America where over 75% of folks approve of cannabis, but we indeed have much work to do, as well. It’s my wish to recognize the place this female plant, her value, and teachings hold for our world. To recognize and correct when we judge cannabis and the women who benefit from the plant. If you’re new to the idea of using cannabis, take heart from my productive, positive example that cannabis is an incredibly personalizable plant with hundreds of medically therapeutic compounds for the benefit of humankind. Cannabis is indeed for everyone – but objective, comprehensive education, and empathy are key.

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Christina Cassidy-Forbrich, the founder of The Canncierge is a Sociologist, cannabis educator, and creative/marketing consultant. She incorporates two decades of practical cannabis use, research, and education. Find her on Instagram @TheCanncierge.

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