It’s been almost three years since the first recreational marijuana store opened a few blocks from my home in Anchorage, Alaska. Once the state became legal, these stores popped up all over town and my options for treating the chronic condition I’ve lived with for over a decade increased overnight.
Today, I buy my low-dose edibles from a store that looks suspiciously like a J. Crew. I microdose to treat pain and anxiety, and I speak freely about my use because I have absolutely nothing to lose by doing so.
I am a successful, college-educated white female, living in a state where marijuana is legal, using the drug to treat verifiable medical conditions. No one is going to throw me in jail or take my child away from me.
It is because of this privilege that I did not hesitate to write an article for Parents about my marijuana use. “Marijuana Makes Me a Better Mom” (later amended to “Micro-Dosing Marijuana Makes Me a Better Mom”) was the title my editors attached to this article, borrowing from the last line in which I wrote: ” It allows me to be the best version of myself for my daughter, and I have no shame in admitting that it makes me a better mother.
This was one of over 20 articles I wrote last September. One of thousands I’ve written in my seven-year career as a freelance essayist and health journalist. It never occurred to me that those would be the words that would get me any kind of extra attention.
Until the daytime talk show circuit started calling.
It started with “The Tamron Hall Show,” which offered to take my daughter and I to New York for what turned out to be a two-minute sound bite. Two days later, “Good Morning America” requested an interview. And just this week, several other news stations have reached out.
These shows dubbed me ‘Weed Mom’, coming up with cute segment titles like ‘Is ‘Weed Mom’ the new ‘Wine Mom’?” They asked me to highlight my admission that marijuana makes me a better mother, allowing me at least to explain why (because by dealing with my pain and anxiety, I can get out of bed every day and in fact to be present for my granddaughter).
They completely avoided any mention of the hypocrisy that I constantly tried to discuss, in which my marijuana use is somehow fashionable and fun to talk about, while people like Ferrell Scott are serving life sentences for marijuana-related crimes.
“[The talk shows that have featured me have] I completely avoided any mention of the hypocrisy that I constantly tried to discuss, in which my marijuana use is somehow fashionable and fun to talk about, while people like Ferrell Scott are serving life sentences .
You read correctly. Scott has already served 10 years to life in prison. The charges against him were one count of conspiracy and three counts of possession of marijuana. He was not a drug baron. He was a pot dealer, doing what dispensaries in legal states build entire business models today.
Just a quick reminder: Brock Turner was sentenced to just six months in prison for sexually assaulting 22-year-old Chanel Miller behind a dumpster in 2015. He only served three months.
Should we review the races of each of these men, or is it pretty obvious?
The injustice of all this is maddening. And Scott is not alone. Nearly 84% of the more than 2,000 federal marijuana convictions in 2018 were against people of color, according to the US Sentencing Commission. This, despite the fact that the ACLU reports that marijuana use is roughly equal across all racial demographics.
I wrote about my marijuana use and went viral, earning me a free trip to New York and appearances on talk shows. But if a black man gets caught with marijuana, he has to face the very real potential of spending years of his life in prison for the same thing I was celebrated for – all because of a drug infinitely safer than alcohol or tobacco, both of which are legal, and which have far greater medicinal potential.
I was in my local pot store recently when an older woman walked in, clearly paralyzed with pain. “My doctor suggested I try this,” she said. “I have never used marijuana before. I don’t like to smoke and I’ve always been afraid of breaking the law.
I watched the employees of this particular dispensary explain to him the options available. I stepped in when she mentioned she didn’t want to get high, admitting I didn’t like it either, and directing her to the products I personally use. And I smiled as she left with renewed hope, crossing my fingers that she might find the same relief I had.
A relief that I spent years looking for.
If marijuana hadn’t become legal in my state, I’d probably still be looking. And I hate to think of how many more years I would have wasted. I speak publicly about my marijuana use because I truly believe that this drug has given me a solution when nothing else has. I’m open about this because I desperately want to end the stigma so other people can feel more comfortable exploring this option on their own.
But I’m also very privileged to be able to do it without fear.
Not everyone is so lucky.
“I desperately want to end the stigma so other people can feel more comfortable exploring this option on their own… But I’m also very privileged to be able to do so without fear.”
It’s time to push for federal legalization. Currently, under federal law, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, placing it in the same category as heroin and LSD. While 11 states have opposed the federal government in allowing recreational use and 33 have legalized medical use, the lack of consistency means a huge disparity between those who can freely seek relief with marijuana and those who face a penalty. jail for that.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) introduced the latest marijuana law to Congress. the Marijuana Law 1 to 3 would move marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug, further researching its benefits and increasing the options for companies to distribute it. But with Cory Booker (DN.J.) Marijuana Justice Act seemingly dead in the water, it’s hard to know how far we are from true federal legalization.
So while it might be cute and trendy to call me “Weed Mom” or to oppose “wine mothers” for ratings, it really misses the most important aspect of this conversation :the fact is that even though marijuana can actually improve people’s lives, too many people are still threatened with imprisonment or losing their children for trying it.
Without federal legalization, the disparity between those who can speak openly about their marijuana use and those who could risk jail time for it will continue.
And there’s nothing cute or trendy about it.
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. Single mother by choice after a series of fortuitous events that led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also the author of the book Single infertile woman and has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption and parenting. You can connect with Leah via Facebookhis websiteand Twitter.
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Correction: An earlier version of this essay listed methamphetamine as a Schedule I controlled substance. It is a Schedule II substance.