Ever since Kiri Westby published her controversial and totally not anonymous piece, "Confessions of a Pothead Mom," I've gotten many a text/DM/FB message/email from someone asking: "Be honest -- are you the HuffPost Pothead Mom?"
I'm not, of course; Kiri Westby is -- but the fact that so many people were wondering if I had written the post speaks to two things: The first, that my reputation has preceded me, and the second, that the stigma against marijuana is still so strong that the assumption, when someone speaks out in favor of it, is that they are doing so under a pseudonym. Because who in their right mind would admit to toking on the Internet? Until today, not me.
When I read Westby's piece I reacted, and reacted again. It was a roller coaster of a read for me, and although I instantly felt compelled to respond, I realized as I sat down to write that I had so many conflicting feelings on the issue my head was practically spinning with angles for this post.
- Nooooooo... don't call yourself a Pothead Mom. Don't do that to us. Don't give us that label.
- No, no, she's totally right. This is a double standard that needs to be discussed. Parents are drinking wine and bragging on social media all day long and yet we're stuck smoking joints behind planters with rubber gloves on.
- Why do we have to create parenting identities out of our vices anyway? Wine-swilling Mom. Cursing Mom. Pill-popping Mom. Is being a parent so terribly uncool that we must compensate by showing the world how hard we can party regardless of who is under our supervision?
- Wait a minute. I'm a medical marijuana patient. This isn't a vice. This is a prescription that I'm using as prescribed. Why am I so shamed by it?
It was that last thought that spun my perspective around. We're a generation that's been highly medicated since our youth, and yet it's rare that we stop and think about the medications we're taking and how they affect our bodies. As a fibromyalgia patient with an anxiety disorder, I'm prescribed any number of benzos, painkillers, muscle relaxers and antidepressants pretty much whenever I ask. I don't feel any shame over taking any of those pills because they're warranted by medical conditions as far as most people are concerned.
But when I take the Xanax for my anxiety, my energy level plummets along with my anxiety. I once lost a writing job because I was overly sedated in a meeting. When I take the Soma for the debilitating hip pain and radiating arm pain that my fibromyalgia brings, I often don't remember portions of the evening when I wake up the next day. And not the final moments of the evening. I lose chunks of my night like you might if you were getting blackout drunk. If my child woke with appendicitis in the middle of the night and came in to wake me, there's a very good chance I wouldn't wake up, and perhaps even more terrifying, if I did, I might take her to the ER and not remember how we got there the next day.
A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to quit marijuana for good. I was carrying a lot of discomfort about how much a part of my routine it had become, and I thought it was best to just kick it to the curb.
And then something strange started happening. I went through my Xanax prescription twice as fast as usual. I started taking the Soma more and more frequently. Days kind of started blending into each other because I'd wake up groggier and groggier. I had eliminated the wrong thing. Marijuana (which, in case I haven't been clear, I am totally legal to use under California Senate Bill SB420 -- and yes, it's really called that) was the medication that was helping me most. It was prescribed for the same conditions, and yet, every time a young celebrity overdoses and dies, it's the only thing in my medicine cabinet not inevitably listed on their toxicity report. Because unlike EVERY.OTHER.MEDICATION I've been prescribed to help with my buffet of autoimmune and anxiety issues, marijuana can't kill you.
In this country, we have to erase the stigma of marijuana; it is not a street drug, and is a beneficial natural medicine -- which as an added bonus is used to make cloth, paper, oil and is easily renewable.
In her piece, Westby wrote:
I'm obviously not the only mom who smokes pot. In fact, I'm guessing that there are a lot of us out there. Sometimes we recognize each other and, in doing so, enter into a sisterhood of winks and whispers, complicit in our mutual understanding and our public shame.
That resonated with me. I've felt that shame too. I've shared the same glances. I've invited the woman from my pot shop and her kiddo to my daughter's birthday party because she told me she doesn't want the stigma of her job to overflow into her daughter's social life, so she keeps her distance from most moms. But shame indicates a problem. Shame indicates we're doing something wrong. We're not. In cases like mine and Kiri Westby's, we're not even doing anything illegal.
If we're going to have a conversation about pot, medicinal or otherwise, I think it needs to start with the stigma even those of us who support it and benefit from its medicinal properties have trouble shaking. For me, that starts with the decision that there doesn't need to big a big secret or a big confession. I'm a mom. I'm a card-carrying medical marijuana user. Those are just two of about a million things about me.
This post originally appeared on The818.com.
Follow Morgan Shanahan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/the818