Gina Kaysen Fernandes: Is pot the new Pilates? A new wave of reefer madness is sweeping suburbia -- but it's not just teenagers who are lighting up. Middle-aged, middle-class soccer moms are smoking pot ... a lot. These women aren't stoners; they're teachers, lawyers ... and perhaps even your own neighbor (who prefers puffing a joint to sipping Chardonnay).
"Marijuana is the magic in my life that helps me unwind, stay sane and have more energy," says Sonia, a 24-year-old mother from Los Angeles. Working full-time as a restaurant manager leaves Sonia feeling stressed out and drained at the end of the day. She smokes pot once or twice daily to relax. "I have a stressful job," she says. "It's something that helps me wind down so I don't take out my frustration on my husband or my child."
Sonia became a mother at age 22 and suffered from some depression. She turned to marijuana to help curb the baby blues. A doctor later diagnosed Sonia with anxiety and wrote her a prescription for the herb. Sonia gets her stash from a medicinal marijuana clinic and takes comfort in knowing that the pot she smokes is legal and high-quality.
Mary is a 37-year-old, self-employed mother in Seattle who smokes pot several times a week. "It is relaxing, fun, and once in a while I self-medicate for cramps or headaches," says Mary. She says she prefers smoking pot to drinking beer because it's easier on the body and has fewer calories. Mary buys her bags from a dealer, making it more risky because "there's still a real danger of being arrested," she says.
The website Chikii.com surveyed hundreds of women nationwide between the ages of 25 and 60 years old. Out of that group, 52 percent admitted to using marijuana at least ten times a year. Twenty-seven percent smoked between one and seven times a week. And 78 percent of those women knew someone who got high on a regular basis.
The recent survey results are no surprise to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "These findings are indicative of women's willingness to admit to the social stigma that was so high in the 1970s and '80s," says St. Pierre.
Both women who shared their stories with momlogic say that many of their friends smoke weed. But while it seems like "marijuana mamas" are everywhere, this silent majority prefers to stay in the shadows. "They think if they admit it, it makes them a bad mom," says Sonia, who believes the opposite is true. "It makes me a better mother. It clears my head and allows me to focus on my child." Mary says it's important to be a responsible smoker "by doing it mindfully, only when I have downtime."
Sonia has a 2-year-old, and is therefore a few years away from the dreaded drug talk. But she doesn't plan to hide her habit from her son. "I want to be honest," she says. "I don't want him to feel marijuana is an evil thing." Mary says she's very open about her drug use with her daughter, Sierra. "We talk about responsible use pretty often," says Mary. Both women say they never smoke pot in the house or in front of their children.
There's a lot of debate over how to talk to kids about using drugs without sounding like a hypocrite, especially if you're the one hitting the bong. Zero-tolerance proponents believe you must support abstinence-only. But advocates say that a more real-world approach is to discuss drug use in moderation. This method is detailed in a pamphlet called "Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs," which is distributed by the California PTA.
The growing group of ganja smokers certainly has the attention of lawmakers. A renewed debate is heating up over legalizing (or, at minimum, taxing the medicinal sales of) marijuana to cash in on this potential cash cow. According to NORML, marijuana remains the fourth largest cash crop in America, despite the estimated $10 billion that law enforcement spends annually to enforce the outlawing of the plant. In California, marijuana is the number-one cash crop. Thirteen states have laws on the books that allow for medicinal use of marijuana. The most recent federal survey found that more than 100 million Americans have tried pot at some point, and more than 14 million have used it in the past month. "I think a lot of moms are starting to loosen up," says Sonia.
Both of these moms support legalizing marijuana. "It will help our economy, help our state and take away that stigma," says Sonia. Mary believes that pot-smoking should be about personal choice, not politics. "I'm an adult and I make life or death decisions every day," she says. "The drug war has killed lots of people; smoking pot hasn't killed anyone."
What do you think? Are these moms on the right track -- or are they whacked-out on more than just weed?
Photos courtesy of Michael Johnson