With marijuana now legal (to some degree) in more than half of the U.S., the profile of the average user may be changing to include more parents. But is that a good thing?Chuck Grimmett/Flickr
As one mom wrote on The Spinoff, as the child of frequent users, the last thing she wants is to see marijuana legalized for recreational use (medical use is a different matter).
Because she knows her position is unpopular and “uncool,” she wrote anonymously. Yet, her memories of feeling overlooked and ignored as a child are still strong:
I never had a bed-time story as they were usually asleep on the couch or zoned out in front of the television. I was often left at school or weekend activities for hours on end because they’d forget to pick me up. They forgot birthdays so regularly I just got used to not having birthday parties. I never invited anyone over because I was so embarrassed.
Because her parents were white, educated, middle-to-upper class, and “respectable,” they were in little danger of being caught. They didn’t fit the stereotype of a “pothead.”
But their behavior was another matter. The author remembers her father coming home, “stinking of weed,” and of her parents smoking together nearly every evening. She wrote:
In the car on the way to school my mother would smoke her “special cigarettes.” I have no idea what impact all of the second-hand smoke has had on me. I often remember feeling foggy at school.
Though her parents insisted there was little difference between a joint and a beer, the author disagreed:
Stoned people insist they don’t change when they smoke. […] They still say that to me and my siblings, we who spent our whole childhood trying to hold conversations with parents who were constantly high.
However, parents who support using marijuana claim it helps them deal with the stresses of family and child-rearing.
Emma Cunningham, a mom of two from Mill Valley, California, compares using marijuana to taking Advil for a headache. She told KPIX News that the drug has made her a better mother:
“It makes me present and calm and I have two boys, and they fight and they argue with me and so instead of reaching for a glass of wine here and there in the evening when I come home from work I can go downstairs, outside my door and vape.”
But one person’s “calm” can be another’s “out of touch.” The daughter of stoners says it can be “terrifying” for a child when the person who is supposed protect you is too high to do anything. She wrote:
One of my prevailing thoughts as a child was “Why am I am so terrible that my parents have to get high to be around me?” My whole life I have tried to change that voice in my head. But it’s so difficult.
When you’re a child of a stoner parent you constantly think “Am I so boring that they need drugs to interact with me? Am I such an awful child that to even bear to spend time with me they can’t be sober?”
As a mom, she worries about the message legalization sends and the impact that it will have on other families. And statistics indicate that legalization and increased use by parents go hand-in-hand.
According to a survey by Eaze, a marijuana delivery service based in California, approximately 22 percent of cannabis consumers are parents. Moreover, a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that legalization in Washington state was accompanied by a change in parental attitudes about marijuana use in adults — and a rise in marijuana use disorder (addiction) in parents who used.
What the mom now wants parents to know is the toll parental marijuana use can take on the family. As a teen, she felt so alone (after failing to connect with a mother who was checked out from drug use) that she contemplated suicide. One sibling began smoking from their parents’s stash at age 13. Another is now drug-free after more than a decade of serious substance abuse.
While her experience led to this mom to hate marijuana, it didn’t save her from the psychological fallout of her upbringing:
Seeing my parents smoke made me never want to touch it, but the loneliness that I felt in the face of their drug-induced neglect turned me to alcohol. It took me a long time to get that under control. There are scars.
Her position isn’t a popular one, but she hopes her experience will persuade others to think twice about what legalization could mean for children. Most of all, she wants parents to know they’re fooling themselves if they think parenting and regular marijuana use can co-exist. She wrote:
“If you rely on marijuana to parent, ask yourself what effect that has on your children. Because I promise you, it has an impact.”