Cannabis Moms Talk Stigma, Politics, And Working In A Male-Dominated Industry
“My mommy sells your mommies and daddies candy that makes them feel funny!”
Over the last 11 months, the cannabis industry has begun marketing directly towards a new demographic: moms. Plagued with the stress of parenting during a pandemic, working from home, and a shared sense of community upheaval, many mothers have turned to cannabis for the first time — or so the story goes.
Though there’s been a notable increase in cannabis usage amongst some mothers (and disproportionate attention paid to those who are white, upper-middle class, and previously prohibitionist), many mothers have been using cannabis to manage stress and for enjoyment as long as cannabis has been around. Some, especially in legalized states, are executives in the industry or own their own brands.
Despite the relative success of women in the cannabis industry, legal weed is oftentimes a man’s game. Not only does the process of procuring investment tend to favor young white men, but so have representations of stoner culture, which has historically sidelined women through sexist language and stereotypes. Yet, women have been key to cannabis activism and legalization through the years, and a disproportionate amount of women have founded their own cannabis companies when compared to other industries.
Mothers in the industry, facing the still-present risks of the War on Drugs as well as sexism and the judgement from other parents for their chosen career path, have become champions for the plant in their own right. We talked to some of the leading mothers in the cannabis industry today about their most interesting stories and what they think needs to change to make this industry more inclusive.
Whitney Beatty, CEO at Apothecarry Brands
Despite creating one of the most stylish and genuinely useful cannabis cases around, Whitney Beatty was a late-bloomer. Growing up in the 80s at the peak of anti-drug propaganda, she says she could hardly differentiate between hard drugs and plant medicine. That changed when her doctor recommended it as a way to soothe her anxiety disorder. It was only after finding medicinal relief from cannabis that she realized her “negative feelings about it were by Harry Anslinger’s design.”
Now, she devotes her time to a product that aims to normalize cannabis. Whereas wine moms might keep a bottle of rosé in the fridge, Beatty encourages cannabis consumers to store their products in her humidor cases.
She says the line between normalizing and whitewashing cannabis is distinct. Normalizing, to Beatty, is “abolishing the ideas that cannabis usage is somehow illicit or outside of the norm,” adding that “you can’t use a photo of a Black man consuming in an attempt to shed a negative light there, and simultaneously glamorize it for white people.”
Kristin Murr-Sloat, Co-owner at AlpinStash
Kristin Murr-Sloat is newly open about being a weed mom and says the transition has been relatively smooth. Running the craft cannabis grow-op AlpinStash with her husband, she says she’s developed a bit of a reputation amongst other parents. “Often, other moms who consume reach out to me with questions or looking for a fellow cannamom to hang out with, which I love,” she says. “However, this conversation usually starts off with some declaration of secrecy, where they feel uncomfortable being ‘out’ of the ‘cannabis closet’.”
Though her son is only a toddler now, she says she talks with her husband often about how to explain cannabis to their child when he gets older. She says he’s already helped them a little bit with their home grows alongside tending to other plants in the garden, and “views it as any other plant.”
When it comes to breaching the topic of recreational use, Murr-Sloat has no plans to overthink it. “We don’t smoke in small, closed-in areas where he can be exposed to secondhand smoke,” she says. “We won’t glorify or demonize it. We will teach him to understand and respect it.”
Esther Song, CMO at Canndescent
Esther Song is the new Chief marketing Officer at Canndescent, a company known for approachable packaging that appeals to new consumers and aficionados alike. She says that working with the large and mission-driven brand aligns perfectly with her new outlook on life since having a child. “Being a new mother has given me a better understanding of what’s important in this world, and I believe this industry is shaping the future of consumer and retail experiences, as well as creating a significant social impact,” she says.
Song’s lucky in that she says she’s faced relatively little cannabis stigma from other parents. In fact, she says she’s noticed a “growing trend among new moms reaching for cannabis to alleviate pandemic-related stressors.” Over the last few months, she says she’s enjoyed using the extra time to get acquainted with Canndescent products with her husband “once the baby’s asleep.”
Chrissy Stone, Field Representative Director at Sunderstorm
Chrissy Stone got started early in the cannabis industry, entering her first dispensary job at just 17 years old in San Diego. “My parents hated it and told me, ‘this is no job for my daughter! Where will it take you in life?” She jokes. She says confronting that stigma at an early age paid off. Now, at 29, she works for what she calls “one of the BEST companies in the cannabis business.”
That doesn’t mean she’s totally escaped the judgement, however. Rather, she says she’s learned better how to manage perceptions and be proud of her role in a controversial industry. When her five-year-old son was asked to explain what his mom did for work, for example, he blew her cover in front of all the other parents. “My son looked at the class and then looked back at me, and in his loudest voice said ‘my mommy sells your mommies and daddies candy that makes them feel funny,’” she says.
None of the other parents had any questions and avoided returning to the topic. But instead of lamenting, Stone just shrugged it off. “I brushed it off with a smile and closed it with ‘if any parents like candy, let me know.’ My son laughed and so did I, and that’s all that mattered to me.”
Amy Cirincione O’Connor, Co-Founder and Head of People Officer at Humboldt Social
Amy O’Connor’s use has changed a lot over time. An avid recreational consumer in her late teens and twenties, she says getting ‘stoned’ was key to her identity. Now, she mostly microdoses. “I use 5mg gummies, 1 hit off a vape or joint, or .25 of a tincture to help me relax at the end of the day,” she says. Her cannabis-friendly boutique hotel allows people to visit the cannabis heartland in style, and without judgement.
Living in a region that’s home to some of the world’s most famous cannabis farmers, talking about cannabis is a lot easier for O’Connor than it is for mothers elsewhere in the country. She says she loves “working with women farmers, many of whom are also moms.” If other moms judge her, she says she pays them no mind. “I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who might judge me for my use,” she says. “But I haven’t actually asked them for their opinion, and I don’t plan to.”
To her, the conversation about normalizing cannabis as a mom must put the politics of cannabis activism front and center. “To truly navigate cannabis stigma, we need to have a national reckoning about the trauma criminalization inflicted upon our communities, especially Black and Brown and Indigenous communities,” she argues.
Cannabis Moms Moving The Industry Forward
Cannabis moms are a lot more than wine moms opting for highs over headaches. Rather, many are using their talents and expertise to drive the industry in a more inclusive and welcoming direction. In future years, one can only hope they won’t be an anomaly, but the norm.