Meet the CannaMoms | Social Equity | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Pin It
Favorite

Meet the CannaMoms 

Women Are Confronting the Stigma Around Consuming Cannabis

Last Updated: 05/18/2022 3:36 pm

click to enlarge Alexia Brown and Tiffany McPhail opened Leaf Love Cafe, a member's-only BYO THC space on the Newburgh waterfront, in April.
  • Alexia Brown and Tiffany McPhail opened Leaf Love Cafe, a member's-only BYO THC space on the Newburgh waterfront, in April.

If you type “wine mom” into the search bar of any popular e-marketplace that peddles quirky creative goods, you’re deluged with stemless glasses with sassy quotes like “It’s mom’s turn to wine” in the Live Laugh Love font. There’s even a board book for children—the kind built to withstand Godzilla-like toddlers—called “M is for Mama (and also Merlot).”

This lighthearted public embrace of parental alcohol consumption is not new. Long before it became a meme, it’s been viewed as harmless and even cathartic for parents to wear their vices on their sleeves. It’s a communal acknowledgment that they’re all aboard this crazy train together, and booze keeps them on the rails.

The non-alcoholic yet still drug-fueled equivalent to the Wine Mom is the Coffee Mom. There’s the Chocolate Mom, the Online Shopping Mom, and so on. But one group has a lot of catching up to do, and in far more areas than selling kitsch on the internet. Meet the CannaMoms.

Despite most Americans supporting legalization, cannabis being authorized for adult recreational use in New York (plus 16 other states and Washington, DC), and the fact that cannabis consumption rose 55% among females last year, many moms still worry about coming out of the cannabis closet. Their reasons range from nagging social and medical stigmas to fear of legal repercussions, the latter remaining a disproportionate concern for women of color.

click to enlarge Tanya Osborne, founder of the CannaDiva, has been consuming cannabis for 30 years and has a 14-year-old son.
  • Tanya Osborne, founder of the CannaDiva, has been consuming cannabis for 30 years and has a 14-year-old son.

It’s a conundrum that has many local mothers concealing what they consider to be a cornerstone of their health and lifestyle. This doesn’t sit well with activists like Tanya Osborne, event director for the Women Grow network and founder of the CannaDiva, who has been consuming cannabis for 30 years and has a 14-year-old son. “The wine moms? Everyone is okay with them,” says Osborne, who grew up in the Bronx and now lives in Yonkers. “They can walk down the street drinking from the bottle, and everything is fine. And if a CannaMom wants to smoke a joint or eat an edible, it’s the clutching of the pearls. It’s truly not fair.”

(On May 26, Osborne will be participating in a virtual Q&A panel discussion, "Parents & Cannabis: Edibles, Cooking with Cannabis, and Parental Stigma," hosted by The Pass, part of their ongoing Speaker Series.)

As wine has become synonymous with helping mom chill, and coffee with keeping mom from dying of exhaustion, many CannaMoms—through advocacy, opening cannabusinesses, or normalizing their own habits among their peers—are working to destigmatize cannabis and push it toward acceptance as another tool to soften the grind of raising kids.

That’s what cannabis has come to be for Anique Nicholson, who lives in Kingston with her husband and two-year-old. She is open with friends and family about cannabis, and while she has historically consumed for relaxation and reducing anxiety, she is “finding it helpful in parenting in so many unexpected ways.”

“Before my son was born, I did not understand or appreciate how mentally taxing it is to be a parent,” says Nicholson. “Cannabis keeps me grounded and present with him. It helps me with sensory processing and just generally quieting all the other things going on in my mind so I can tap into my own sense of wonder and joy.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Jennifer, who agreed to speak anonymously due to the nature of her job. The Highland mom of two said she’s been shamed by her immediate family for consuming cannabis as a parent. She also hides it from her colleagues in the healthcare field, where she says there remains a “great deal of judgment” against weed.

“It’s part of who I am,” says Jennifer, whose youngest child is autistic and epileptic. “I find [the judgment] completely ludicrous. I have never smoked in front of my children, or even while they are awake. I have a very-high intensity job and a high-needs child. We all have our way that we like to unwind at the end of the day. Cannabis just happens to be mine.”

Before it was legalized recreationally in New York, being forced to obtain cannabis illegally and being subject to charges if caught possessing it even factored into some parents’ decisions to leave.

click to enlarge When Lori Ryan and her husband left New York, they only considered moving to states where marijuana was legal. They now live in Oregon.
  • When Lori Ryan and her husband left New York, they only considered moving to states where marijuana was legal. They now live in Oregon.

“When we decided to move out of New York, we only considered legal states,” says Lori Ryan, a SUNY New Paltz graduate and former Ulster County resident who moved to Oregon with her husband and daughter in 2016. “Now, buying cannabis is just another errand.”

So, theoretically, this shouldn’t be an issue for New York moms anymore—yet it is. And more mothers are using legalization as an opportunity to educate the public and provide sanctuaries for CannaMoms to live their truths.

For Tiffany McPhail, a mother of three in Newburgh, this work started in her own community when she decided to open a business with fellow CannaMom Alexia Brown. The pair met through their children who were in the same class, and they’d hung out several times before McPhail finally felt comfortable enough to pull out her vape pen while hiking with Brown. “I’m hanging out with this mom, and she and I have no idea that we have this thing in common because we’re too afraid to say it,” said McPhail.

They officially opened Leaf Love Company last year and started out selling products like smell-proof pouches with locks for CannaMom safety. But McPhail, inspired by the stories she’d heard of the coffee shops in Amsterdam, dreamed of opening a smoke-friendly cafe on the Newburgh waterfront.

“I wanted a safe space in our area for people like me who choose to consume cannabis as opposed to going out drinking,” says McPhail. “There was nowhere for us.”

When their dream space on Front Street became available, Leaf Love Café was born, officially opening on 4/20 this year. While operating day-to-day as a members-only BYO THC cafe, the space has played host to cannabis-related wellness education events and has a packed calendar of puff-and-paint parties, yoga, game nights, and karaoke.

Love Leaf Cafe has played host to cannabis-related wellness education events and has a packed calendar of puff-and-paint parties, yoga, game nights, and karaoke.
  • Love Leaf Cafe has played host to cannabis-related wellness education events and has a packed calendar of puff-and-paint parties, yoga, game nights, and karaoke.

While the opening of spaces like this is undoubtedly a win for moms who, as Osborne says, “party different,” some parents are still too spooked by the infancy of New York’s cannabis laws to be celebrating in public just yet. A “big blind spot,” noted Osborne, is the persistent threat of Child Protective Services.

“Someone can call, whether warranted or not, and the potential of someone leaving with your child is a big issue—for cannabis, which is legal in our state,” says Osborne. “That can happen, and I know people that has happened to. The fear around it is 100 percent acceptable.”

Osborne says changes are happening, but not as nearly as fast as the industry is taking off. With CPS cases strictly related to cannabis ongoing, and with the agency still sorting out how it will treat cannabis with consideration to legalization, the threat seems to be going nowhere fast. “Being a Black woman, that is a very, very major concern,” says McPhail. “Unfortunately, our babies get tested almost twice as much as any other children in the hospital. They check us. They don’t check everyone.”

Nicholson adds: “I’m not particularly afraid of the state getting involved with my family because of how I manage my mental health, but it isn’t enough for white moms to feel comfortable using cannabis if moms of color are still being criminalized for it.”

Osborne says while much more work and basic Cannabis 101 education is needed, the needle is moving slowly in favor of CannaMom acceptance. One can at the very least rest easy knowing they’re far from alone, and the proof is no longer being pushed in the shadows.

“We’re not hiding anymore,” says McPhail. “We are in the light. Join our tribe.”

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Beyond the Threshold: Tibetan Contemporary Art @ Vassar College - The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Beyond the Threshold: Tibetan Contemporary Art

March 5-July 31 — "Beyond the Threshold" highlights the diversity of contemporary Tibetan creative expression, presenting...
“Marc Swanson: A Memorial to Ice at the Dead Deer Disco” @ MASS MoCA

“Marc Swanson: A Memorial to Ice at the Dead Deer Disco”

March 12-Jan. 1 — These installations are Marc Swanson’s most ambitious yet and consist of sculptures...

View all Upcoming Events

Chronogram on Instagram

Latest in Cannabis

It’s high time Chronogram made a newsletter about marijuana. Stay in the know with the latest on dispensary openings, industry news, cultivation tips, and more as we cover the emerging cannabis scene in New York and the Northeast. Welcome to High Society.

Subscribe

* indicates required