Why cannabis consumers have a responsibility to tell their children the truth about prohibition and the war on drugs, and how this conversation can help white parents talk to their children about race
For me, being a parent is the most powerful act of revolution I can commit. And being a cannamama, while also about embracing natural medicine, self-care, and safer forms of recreation, is absolutely a political act. To be a cannamama is to be a revolutionary, and I want to highlight that here.
Prior to entering the cannabis industry four years ago, I’d spent my career in service to children, women, and families in schools and nonprofits. Throughout my adulthood, I was a progressive, anti-bias educator in the classroom and in after-school programs, and I worked for better outcomes for women and children primarily through advocacy, citizen lobbying, and fundraising.
So I came to the project of legalization with a social justice lens and with women, children, and families as my primary priorities. I came to this work because I knew regulation is better than prohibition – especially for marginalized people.
Two Cities: Baltimore & Amsterdam
I’m also from Baltimore. I’ve done most of my teaching and advocacy work there. I raised my daughter for her first eight years there, in a city which holds the title of the most murderous in America and the heroin capital of the U.S. Both the result of failed drug policies that fed and strengthened institutional racism – their symbiosis so clear here. In Baltimore, the war on drugs is a part of your lived reality in a way that it is in few other places. It is literally a war.
In Baltimore, it is so bad that even my conservative, Polish Catholic grandfather used to tell me in the 90s that drugs should be legal and drug abuse treated like a public health issue instead of a crime.
I’ve lived in Holland too, during Amsterdam’s heyday in the early 2000s. It was here that I saw for the first time, in a quasi-regulated environment, the way police interacted with citizens when they weren’t trying to make drug arrests. The way policing is different without the overlay of the drug war. Whether you’d just exited a coffeeshop, billowing marijuana smoke behind you, or you’d just shot up around the corner, police treated drug users like humans. Not like garbage.
Two Possible Futures: Profits or Prison
Baltimore was our home in April of 2015, when Freddie Gray was murdered by police – a direct result of the war on drugs – and it was our home for the weeks that followed. We watched the uprising on television and walked outside to smell the smoke from burning buildings and cars.
A few days later, while our city was still under a state of emergency, locked down by National Guardsman enforcing curfew, we were invited to an ArcView Group party in Washington, D.C. A gathering for investors, hungry to cash in on the green rush. Chad and I drove down and mingled, shook hands, and passed vape pens with some of the wealthiest, most powerful white men in cannabis. And then went home, passing tanks stationed just blocks from our house.
My burning city, occupied. Flames licking from the fires of poverty, gun violence, oppression, racism – all held in place by the war on drugs. At the exact same time, movers and shakers making multi-million dollar cannabis deals at the swankiest club in DC. The stark difference, the raw and disgusting disparity: this was almost too much for a mind to bear.
The Change We Need
I have said this before: The war on drugs has solidified institutional racism in our country like no other force, and if it’s up to our children to dismantle it, we must give them the resources to do the job. This means giving them real drug talk – about the potential of the cannabis plant and the circumstances around its prohibition.
We all know that the drug war has had disastrous effects on families, women, and children, especially families of color. We know that over half a million people are arrested for marijuana crimes each year. We know these arrests are disproportionately of black and brown people. We know the war on drugs was conceived specifically to silence dissidents and blacks. These are facts. This is our history. And if we know this, our children should too.
My decision to talk to my daughter openly about cannabis is rooted in my desire to build a strong relationship founded on honesty and trust. But it’s propelled every single day by the urgency I feel around cultivating a generation who can change our world. We need this now, more than ever, and I truly believe cannabis is the vehicle for this culture shift.
As a white woman, I raise my voice against the war on drugs because it is the only way I can think of to even begin to address reparations. Because I cannot quietly watch white people get wealthier off a plant that’s keeping black people behind bars. I teach my daughter these things because it’s a long road, and it’s not going to be finished in my lifetime.
Marijuana is Medicine
Marijuana is medicine, for our bodies, minds, and spirits. We have the obligation to pass down that wisdom to our children. It’s also medicine that can heal our communities and our world, and we must carry that message too.
Where the war on drugs has marginalized and oppressed, the movement to end prohibition must uplift and empower. That’s what I’m teaching my daughter when I talk to her about marijuana, that’s what I’m preparing her to do. I know she is – that all our children are – up for the task.
This piece originated as a panel talk at the Inaugural Tokeativity Canna Mamas Panel and Social.