When most people hear the word ‘cannabis’, what comes to mind?
Despite over 1.4 million people in the U.K. relying on cannabis for its medical uses, and 4 and a half million patients prescribed medical marijuana in the US, it’s usually not medicine. Kind of unavoidable when only 13% of medical schools in the US (and considerably less in the UK!) train our doctors in cannabis and the endocannabinoid system and accessibility to cannabis as medicine remains somewhat hushed up.
It’s probably not high flying businessmen and women either, or entrepreneurs working on remarkable innovations. Even though some of the most successful enterprisers such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Seth Rogen and Carl Sagan are very outspoken about how they’re far more likely to reach for a joint than a drink.
What comes to mind for many is ‘stoners’, ‘hippies’, unruly teenagers and people you might cross the road to avoid.
Still today, even in the light of recent legalisation across a swathe of countries and US states and the UN stating cannabis to have ‘undeniable therapeutic value’, almost 100 years of cannabis prohibition is still going strong in society. While 52% of adults in the UK support cannabis legalisation, 32% oppose (with an additional 15% undecided) indicating those imperialistic, racist roots stemming from the reefer madness propaganda of the 1920s and beyond have a firm hold.
But it’s time to change all that.
There are over 41,000 studies into cannabis, demonstrating extraordinary therapeutic value, for conditions including chronic pain, depression, EDS, endometriosis and PTSD. We have personal accounts of millions of cannabis users who feel it is of extreme benefit to them, and from billionaires sharing how cannabis helps them be infinitely more productive, creative and focused. And hiding in the shadowy underbelly of cannabis misinformation and weed stereotypes are respectable, loving, hard-working mothers, some of whom were unable to function, let alone care for their children, before discovering cannabis.
Of all the people who get a bad rap for enjoying the benefits of cannabis, mums are high up the list. Even those who are prescribed medical cannabis still feel the need to hide their truth, while other parents wear sweatshirts proudly emblazoned with ‘prosecco o’clock’ and joke about thinly disguised alcoholism that helps them deal with their toddler’s 30th tantrum of the day.
So, to help battle the stigma and reveal just what ‘cannamums’ are really like, we caught up with two women who use cannabis and are better mothers for it.
Dr Callie Seaman, 41, is a chemist, research director and mother of one. She started using cannabis for epilepsy at age 16 and has been prescribed medical cannabis since 2019.
I use cannabis every day and have done since I was 16 years old when my father started growing it for me as a medicine for epilepsy. Before that, I was on a drug called camazapine, which had me so off my head that I was like a zombie.
For years, before getting my medical cannabis prescription in 2019, I was tormented by the idea of social services finding out I use cannabis and having my son taken away. I struggled to make friends with the parents of my son’s friends at school, too. I was constantly worried that other parents would judge me if they knew I used cannabis, and worse still put me or my son at risk. There was a few times ‘waccy baccy’ was mentioned by other mums in a negative sense, while quaffing bottles of wine at a kid’s party, which they of course consider to be perfectly acceptable.
Now, simply having a piece of paper to legitimise my cannabis use means I no longer feel like a criminal. All of that anxiety and a lurking feeling that I’m a bad person for using this particular medicine has disappeared. But it’s madness that I should have ever be in a position where I should feel like that. In my time smoking cannabis, I’ve completed a degree in biomedical sciences, a 7-year PhD in fertilizer chemistry and launched a successful business, all while raising my son, who is now an amazing 17-year-old with a healthy understanding of cannabis.
Gillian Flood, 39 has been prescribed medical cannabis oil and flower since April 2020 for Fibromyalgia and PTSD. But despite having a legal prescription she’s scared of being judged.
I was prescribed cannabis last year for fibromyalgia and PTSD that I’ve suffered with since I was 15. Before cannabis, I tried anti-convulsant medications Gabapentin and Pregabalin, both of which made me feel like I was really drunk. I was staggering, my speech was slurred. It was horrible. I was also put on anti-depressants, lithium and an anti-psychotic which made me feel emotionally and physically numb. I didn’t care about anything, I was so foggy-headed and forgetful and of course, that meant I couldn’t look after my kids. That put a lot of pressure on my husband, who had to look after me and do everything else for our family too. I got to the point where I decided I’d rather put up with constant pain than be on medication – at least I could read a story to my children and be present to some degree without it.
But then I discovered cannabis. I saw on a fibromyalgia Facebook group that a cannabis clinic was offering free assessments, so I got in touch. Now I’m prescribed cannabis flower and the difference has been incredible. Within minutes of vaping, my muscles relax, my nausea subsides and I experience near-instant relief. The first time I tried it, I couldn’t believe the change in my symptoms! I suddenly wanted to go out for a walk with my family – something I couldn’t manage before. I didn’t feel impaired at all – I felt happy and in high spirits, but not ‘stoned’.
When I was in constant pain, every day was unbearable. Now, I feel happy to be here. And the longer I use cannabis, the better it gets. I’m without a doubt a better mother to my children with cannabis in my life.
As time goes on, and we grow in our understanding of the benefits cannabis has to offer, it becomes more important than ever that we work together to shift perceptions of this plant – and the effect it can have on people’s lives. Together, we can help educate about what most cannabis users really look like – whether that’s doting mothers, athletes, billionaires or grandparents – and rid the world of damaging stereotypes that still leaves so many living in unwarranted shame and fear.