In some parts of the United States, parents are losing custody to their children for smoking cannabis. Of course, this isn’t the norm seeing that 33-states have already some form of legalization on the books. But in some places, parents have had to fight for the custody of their children due to their cannabis use. In fact, even in legal states this can happen, as was the case for “A Washington state couple who use medical marijuana and own a marijuana dispensary have been reunited with their five-year-old son after losing custody, with child protective services saying they were not fit parents because they were high all the time.” – Source: DailyMail
CPS called them “unfit” parents due to their cannabis use. However, as it turned out, they weren’t. It was simply a disgruntled employee who reported them to Child Protective Services after being fired from their dispensary.
While this story happened nearly six years ago from the time of writing this article, cannabis use are frequently cited in custody battles as “grounds” for not granting a parent rights to their child. They are called “unfit” while it’s perfectly okay to have a few bottles of Whiskey in your house or to have a “night cap”.
In the case of alcohol consumption, you’d have to be physically violent with a child before you are ever questioned to be “unfit”.
A similar story happened in California to a man named, Nathanial Rudd, who found out he was going to be a dad on the day of his son’s birth. A social worker told Nathanial that the mother was not going to be able to take the child home, and so Rudd started petitioning for custody.
Cannabis is legal in the state of California. Rudd was using it for medical reasons due to a car accident, and was treating his pain. Yet, despite the drug test coming back “inconclusive” – since Rudd stopped using cannabis several days prior (he used it only when it was getting tough to deal with the pain) but was told that he was “cognitively incapable” of caring for the child due to his marijuana use.
His child, baby Peter, was placed into foster care and Rudd, according to this article in the Californian – was still fighting for custody over a year later. Of course, this was prior to Prop 64, which granted medical marijuana patients protection from this kind of malarkey.
CPS noted that this was just the way they do things;
“With any drug, there must be a nexus between drug activity or inactivity that directly threatens the safety of the child,” said Michael Weston, spokesman for the California Department of Social Services. “Does the child have access to the drugs? Is the parent incapacitated to the point where they can’t properly care for the child?”
However, it’s clear that this was not the case. There was never any real follow up from the CPS to determine these factors, rather – his admission of being a medical marijuana patient was the main reason why his child was removed from his custody.
This is something that can occur all over the United States as noted by Rachel Beth;
“The problem is that there is no real way for parents to protect themselves,” said Rachel Beth Wissner, an outreach associate with Massachusetts-based Family Law & Cannabis Alliance. “They can act completely legally under the law – even be more careful, diligent and safe than the laws require – and they can still find themselves at the mercy of child protection services and the courts solely for marijuana.”
Of course, cannabis has gone a lot more mainstream since then, however, until there are federal protections – CPS and similar agencies can utilize cannabis use as a weapon against parents.
They call them “unfit” or “mentally incapable of caring” for their children, even if they provide them with more care than a “non-smoker”. Yet, we do not see the same zeal when it comes to alcohol consumption – which is often a vehicle for familiar violence and child negligence.
However, today I’m not here to outline these sad cases but rather argue why cannabis should be prescribed to parents…since raising children can be incredibly stressful.
I have recently become a first parent and can tell you that cannabis has helped me reflect on my own emotional responses when under stress due to parenting.
Being a Parent is TOUGH!
While having a child is one of the best things I have ever done in my entire life – I love being a dad! It’s also incredibly difficult and stressful.
When you bring back a newborn, you can say goodbye to sleep. You’ll wake up every few hours to feed the infant, change diapers, and shuffle about trying to rock the baby back to sleep.
After about three months, babies typically learn to sleep through the evening. At least this was true for my son. However, at 3-months old, they begin to have an interest in the world around them. Their need for attention only continues to increase and if there’s one thing you can hear from parents of young children it’s this; “Man I’m fucking tired!”
Then they learn to walk.
From this moment on, you’re completely focused on keeping your child alive. They want to walk everywhere, pick up anything and stuff it into their baby mouths. They also start developing a temper. My kid is now about 14 months old and if you’re not keeping your eye on him, he’ll have something in his mouth or will be rushing off to some danger zone that can end his life.
His mother – my partner – is taking the bulk of the burden and this is because in most cases mothers essentially sacrifice their own individuality in order to raise a child. Of course, there are some “stay at home dads” that do the same, but it’s never the same as a mother.
It’s true that a mother has one of the toughest jobs in the world!
When a kid reaches 2-years of age, they call it “The Terrible Twos”. This is because you can expect tantrums after tantrums when they don’t get their way. They will scream in the middle of a busy mall making you look like the biggest asshole on the planet.
Throughout this entire time – you’ve got to keep your cool!
Why? Because most people’s traumas stem from their childhood and if you think that you weren’t traumatized as a child – guess again. We’re all damaged good from our parents, irrespective of their good intentions.
This is because as a parent, you learn that your parents were just as inexperienced parents when they had you.
Early childhood trauma generally refers to the traumatic experiences that occur to children aged 0-6. Because infants’ and young children’s reactions may be different from older children’s, and because they may not be able to verbalize their reactions to threatening or dangerous events, many people assume that young age protects children from the impact of traumatic experiences. A growing body of research has established that young children may be affected by events that threaten their safety or the safety of their parents/caregivers, and their symptoms have been well documented. These traumas can be the result of intentional violence—such as child physical or sexual abuse, or domestic violence—or the result of natural disaster, accidents, or war. Young children also may experience traumatic stress in response to painful medical procedures or the sudden loss of a parent/caregiver. – Source: NCTSN
Of course, the traumas listed above are REAL traumatic events, but what about minor traumas. What about the emotional inept people who have children. Parents who “lose their shit” and who end up yelling at their kids?
These minor traumas also impact your kids and even if you’re the best parent in the world, you are guilty of some of these minor traumas, whether it’s from “neglecting your child” because you were tweeting some funny thing you found online, or whether you simply couldn’t handle the excessive crying that’s been going on for days.
Not to mention, you’re also responsible for feeding them, clothing them, and making sure that they have everything they need. This is stress + anxiety + fear all wrapped into one experience where your child’s health and wellness is at stake.
For the past two weeks, I have been doing Sober October, and have experienced what it means to be a parent without smoking weed. And boy, has it been tough at times!
Here’s why I think parents should not only be allowed to consume cannabis, but why in some cases it should be mandatory.
Pot and Parenthood
Firstly, before I start this section of the article it’s important to note that I’m not advocating that you smoke blunts or bongrip in front of your kids. Far from it.
You can consume cannabis responsibly and that is typically at the end of the day, or during the day, but very sparingly.
A toke or two will not render you incapable of caring for your child. It simply takes the edge off, and allows you to engage with your child in a more caring and integrated fashion.
Here’s the reasons why cannabis and caring for your kid is a match made in heaven:
Stress Mitigation: As mentioned, when you are a parent you’re under a lot of stress. If your kid has the flu, you’re worried. If he doesn’t…you’re still worried. Did they eat something? Is that a snail in his mouth! They just won’t stop crying! All of these factors create a constant state of stress and anxiety.
Cannabis can help you deal with this accumulative stress and anxiety and give you a moment to “breathe”. It can allow you to reset your emotional state and simply reconnect with the self. Since taking care of a child isn’t a race but a marathon, smoking a bowl at the end of the day to relax, or taking a hit when you’ve “HAD ENOUGH!” can allow you to shift back into the “good parent role”.
You become more mindful: A lot of times when we become emotional, we enter into a “state of automation”. In other words, the emotion overtakes us and we simply react. Smoking cannabis gives you a second to think. It allows you to become mindful of your own reactions and you have the opportunity to choose better. Getting angry at an infant has nothing to do with the infant and everything to do about the emotions you harbor inside. Perhaps, you’re getting angry because of some early childhood trauma gifted to you from your parents. When you get triggered by the same stuff from your own child, you automatically play out this script.
Consuming cannabis can help you become aware of these automated scripts and in turn, you can change the way you react to the situation. You can stop the cycle and give your kid a chance at a different fate than your own.
You can handle kid music: I don’t call him Elmo…I call him HELLMO! Sesame Street is fine once in a while, but kids learn through repetition. This means that you’ll hear the same baby song over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over- again!
It’s fucking madness! Yet, smoke a bowl, get a bit stoned – and all of a sudden you’re engaged in the moment. You’re singing, dancing, pointing out your “head, shoulders, knees and toes” and getting a workout all in one.
You decided to get a bit blitzed and now those furry monsters cease to become the bane of your existence and rather you can form part of the educational experience. For me, I can even appreciate some of the music, listening to the basslines, or the rhyme schemes…your mind starts working differently.
You’re NOT incapacitated: Unlike with alcohol, cannabis doesn’t incapacitate you. You’re not clumsier…you’re just stoned. This is especially true for people who have been smoking a long time. While I make it a point not to smoke in front of my kid, I can go and take 2-3 tokes in the bathroom, and come out without missing a beat.
You can make some FIRE baby food: My kid eats amazingly. This is because as a stoner, I have learned the fine art of munchies…and as a father, I create healthy munchies for my kid. I’m his personal chef and as a result, my kid eats healthy, unprocessed foods thanks to my enjoyment of cooking and making food. Of course, not every stoner can cook, but most stoners know how to make a good healthy munchie.
You’re better with your partner: This is especially true if you both smoke cannabis. Accumulative stress from caring for a baby can often result in you taking out your frustration on your significant other. Cannabis helps mitigate this stress build up allowing you to enjoy your partner and not pay your own stress anxiety forward to them.
It keeps you healthy: One thing that stress and anxiety does to the body is lower the immune system. A lowered immune system means you’d be prone to diseases. Babies, are carriers of diseases. Their immune system is being exposed to all the elements and there are viruses that they get that we may have never had. Therefore, having a healthy immune system is key to being able to be a good parent. I have only gotten sick once and that was because of Covid. Since then, I have been able to care for my kid – even if he felt a bit under the weather. Cannabis helps keep my body in homeostasis and keeps my immune system strong.
I think it’s time in society that we recognize that it’s okay for parents to use substances like cannabis to deal with the stress of parenthood. I have found great relief in it, and I have felt the absence of cannabis during my sober October.
Interestingly enough, I only crave cannabis on few occasions – especially when I’m up at 3 AM bouncing my boy back to sleep. Sometimes, you simply can’t fall back asleep after being violently awoken in the middle of the night with baby screaming.
A smooth bowl of weed, a hot glass of milk – and you’re counting Zs before you know it. I’m not saying all parents SHOULD smoke weed, I’m saying that it’s not a bad option to help with all the stress and anxiety that comes with the territory.
If you’re a cannabis parent, how has weed helped you through the difficulties of raising a kid? I’d love to hear about it so drop me a reply in the comments!
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