The Birth of CannaMama Clinic

Isn't she beautiful!

I always knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t know how best to go about it professionally. I knew I wanted my opinion to be recognized and taken seriously on an international level. I imagined myself as a political analyst, interviewed by media about my opinion on important topics. The truth is, I was in a heck of a rut. I had no clue what I was doing with my life. I graduated college three years ago, and needed to find a big girl job.

I think I started this blog to prove I could do it. I had online friends and bloggers, the owner of Breast Feeding Mama Talk, Kristy Kemp, and owner of Balancing the Blys, Daphney Bly, pushing me to write for the longest time. I had big, keyboard-warrior fingers, perfect for online activism, and a decent Facebook following from it. Why not use my social media skills and following, and hope for the best?

I never expected my article, CannaMamas Need the Freedom to Breastfeed, to receive the attention it did. I knew it was controversial when I published it, but I didn’t expect so many people to actually read it. People read my article, and women related. I got an awesome response from the people in my circle, and surprisingly little negative feedback in general, so I contacted the online publication Ladybud. Diane Fornbacher (fyi, she’s a badass power chick and cannabis activist) agreed to post my article. I remember she felt the story of discrimination against pregnant and breastfeeding cannabis consuming mothers needed to be told. I owe endless gratitude to Ms. Fornbacher for publishing my article, everything she has done for the movement, and continues to do.

Women began to contact me primarily through Facebook to ask me questions about cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I spent hours communicating with strangers about their fears. Not surprisingly, most were afraid of the government and child protective services, not the negative side effects their cannabis consumption could have on their unborn children and nurslings. Quite the opposite, the testimony to the healing properties of cannabis grew abundant.

My husband, his grandmother, and I created CannaMama Clinic in the living room of his childhood home after a couple of weeks of me getting nothing else done but helping strangers. I couldn’t go on at that pace. I still needed to find a job, but I finally found what I wanted to do with my life! I finally found the way to help people and which people to focus my efforts on. I wanted to help these women. These cannamamas! I wanted to end cannabis discrimination against mothers, pregnant and breastfeeding included.

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I have been an activist as long as I can remember, before I knew what activism was. I went to college, and chose a major I believed ripened my adolescent, idealistic desire to change the world. My passions included diversity, lactavism, and feminism. I never really considered myself a “cannavist” (cannabis activist) until CannaMamas Need the Freedom to Breastfeed went viral even though I had consumed cannabis regularly, and much of the time daily, for almost twenty-one years and had PLENTY of experiences to wear the label proudly.

I used cannabis medicinally in 2004 while pregnant with my son. I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, and I credited cannabis for the relief I didn’t receive from zofran or phenergan. I credited cannabis for my son’s life, but still did not consider myself a cannavist. I was ashamed. I quit cannabis consumption at about seven months pregnant because I believed cannabis would interrupt the final stages of development. Although my doctors knew I chose to consume cannabis during my pregnancy, neither my baby nor I was drug tested upon delivery.

Even after my medicinal cannabis consumption for hyperemesis gravidarum, I still failed to understand the medicinal properties of cannabis. Reefer madness propaganda is deep, y’all. Afraid for my son’s health and burdened by the opinions people have of mothers that “smoke pot”, I did not resume consumption until my son was about six months old even though I suffered without the medicinal benefit of the plant. I actually fed my on-demand, breastfed baby pumped milk because of the guilt I felt which I now know, from experience and outcome, was an absolutely pointless and unnecessary disruption of our breastfeeding relationship. I bought into the lies told about breastfeeding and cannabis consumption: hook, line, and sinker.

By 2009, I was a partner at a dispensary, Medicinal Alternatives, and owner of an edibles brand, Mile High Medi-Munchies, in the state of Colorado during what is now known as the “Wild West” pre-regulation days. By 2011, regulations pushed me out along with many others. I never imagined another cannabis company in my future, and although I was an intern at the State Capitol, I was again too afraid to speak there about cannabis, my medical experiences, or my involvement in the budding Colorado cannabis industry. My cannabis activism peeked out through the occasional Facebook post to my friends. 

In 2013, I conceived my daughter. This pregnancy differed from my last pregnancy dramatically. Although still very ill and miserable (I am not the jolly pregnant woman) I knew better than to stop cannabis when I viewed the double pink line that indicated my new pregnancy. I finally had a much better understanding of the plant and its ability to heal. I consumed my entire pregnancy with my daughter until I went into labor. In hindsight, I wish I had brought edibles, tincture, or transdermal cannabis to the hospital for my recovery, but again, fear prevented me. I resumed cannabis consumption as soon as I returned home 2 days later.

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That same month, recreational cannabis became legal in my home state of Colorado. I have since learned regulated cannabis led to an increase of the testing of new mothers and their babies upon delivery. This time, my chart was flagged when I answered honestly about my medical choice. I tested positive for cannabis, and the hospital forced me to speak with one of their social workers before they would discharge us. I gave birth twice that week: to a child and a new passion for cannabis activism. I didn’t realize it yet, but no longer would I be afraid to speak about my choice to consume cannabis while pregnant and breastfeeding.

In June of 2014, I created a secret Facebook support group for moms like me because of my experiences in life and in online mommy, TTC (trying to conceive), and pregnancy groups. The cannamama shaming is REAL! I called my group Cannabis Consumption and Peaceful Parenting.

Although confident and with family support, I did not share my personal story outside of my Facebook group until I wrote my article, CannaMamas Need the Freedom to Breastfeed. After a couple months of reading posts by women with their rights violated in the moments that followed childbirth, their babies tested for cannabis without their consent, their families threatened by government agencies because of their medical choice, I could not remain silent. I felt compelled to share my story so common to cannamamas with the world.

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People often ask me what a cannamama is and how I came up with the name for my company. I chose to refer to the women that choose cannabis while pregnant and breastfeeding and throughout the duration of motherhood as “cannamamas” because my former favorite Facebook peaceful parent community called its members “opinionated mamas” and I continued to see myself as one of them only a proud cannabis consumer now. I had no idea at the time I was not the first to use the term. Silly me.

When my family and I decided to open the business, one of the first things we came up with was the name. We chose “CannaMama Clinic” because of my initial goal to educate the women that sought my help. People regularly mistake my business for a brick and mortar dispensary. I understand the confusion, but I don’t sell cannabis or products that contain THC. Cleverly, I recognized there is more than one meaning of the word and the marketing usefulness of the play on the word.

Merriam Webster, Full Definition of CLINIC
1
: a class of medical instruction in which patients are examined and discussed
2
: a group meeting devoted to the analysis and solution of concrete problems or to the acquiring of specific skills or knowledge <writing clinics> <golf clinics>

**(CANNABIS CLINICS)**
3
a : a facility (as of a hospital) for diagnosis and treatment of outpatients
b : a group practice in which several physicians work cooperatively
4
: a facility that offers professional services or consultation usually at discounted rates <a legal clinic>

**(Does online count as a facility? I think so!)**
5
: an exemplary display or performance <put on a clinic in the tournament>

I loved it the instant it popped into my brain and my husband and his Grandma did too. CannaMama Clinic was born.

I now have an online radio show called Coming Out With CannaMama Clinic on Tokeradio.com. My two co-hosts are Daphney Bly (imagine that!) and Lady A. We air live weekly on Tuesdays from 11-1 MST. Reruns of the show can be found Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 8AM MST.

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Last week, someone commented on the Facebook Live recording of Coming Out With CannaMama Clinic and asked how CannaMama Clinic has changed us so far. I would like to address her question here.

CannaMama Clinic helps cannabis consumers step out of the “cannacloset” with pride, knowledge, and resources. However, CannaMama Clinic is more than a cannabis advocate organization. We have cultivated a unique cannabis community for peaceful parents and female empowerment. Daily, I receive messages of gratitude that make me cry. I know I change lives, and in turn, my life has changed.

I’m so happy I overcame my fears and pressed “publish” with trembling hands. Now I feel like everything I did and everything I went through prepared me to help cannamamas. I could not be more honored or delighted.

I’m still an activist, and there’s no doubt I am a cannavist now. My Grandma always said if I love the work I do, I will never work a day in my life. I love being a cannamamapreneur, and definitely do not consider managing CannaMama Clinic work. Life has a funny way of turning out.

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Stop Taking Our Children Away

First, I got permission to write this post from the woman in the story because she wants to help put an end to the removal of children from the homes of cannamamas.

I’m sitting at my desk in tears over the latest story told to me by a UK cannamama.  This morning (afternoon her time), she posted in my secret Facebook group:

“I just have had my breastfeeding journey forciably (sic) ended.  My family reported me to social work for smoking weed.  They said no more breastfeeding until I earn my kids back and pass a drugs test.  My kids are gone they took them my step mum saw me smoking in the bedroom.  I broke my arm the night before.  They say I am a risk to my children and unfit.  They asked me to voluntarily give them up.  Im dying. Im smoking my last bowl for 17 years.  And the pain of every second that goes by without them is harsher and heavier than the last.  Im dying.  Sitting here looking out my front window and praying for a car to show up and bring my girls back to me.  It never comes.  I just pray I can endure this pain and get them back.  I hope they will still love me.  This cannabis prosecution needs to end.  My girls and I don’t deserve this.  but I cant fight this fight anymore though its cost us too dearly.  good bye and good luck everyone.”

Her story  is horrifying.  We are told there is a “pretty harsh view” of cannabis in her country.  She has been charged for “smoking and nursing”.  She told us she is being treated like a “child molester”.  I believe her.  Child molesting rapists like Jared Subway Fogle end up with less time than non-violent drug offenders.  Why?  Because women and children are powerless classes of people.

I’ll ask the question, how does a good mother, in every sense of the word, deserve this treatment for using cannabis?  What good can the removal possibly do for her children?  Imagine what the baby is going through today!  The baby doesn’t understand why its mother is gone and cannot feed from her breast…why an artificial nipple is shoved into its mouth while gagging on this new liquid that does not smell or taste anything like Mommy’s milk.  This is the best interest of the child?

But that is what they say.  The government rips children from the arms of their mothers regularly over cannabis in the UK and the United States.  Don’t believe it?  Read about Kansas mom, Shonda Banda.  In the UK injustice described above, the children have been placed in “emergency 48 hour foster care”.  Children under the care of cannamamas are deemed an “emergency” situation by her government!  They say the children are in danger.  They tell cannamamas they are horrible people and threaten them with permanent action.  It’s the worst kind of bullying.  I am disgusted.

We are told there is nothing we can do for her, there is nothing she can do for herself or her children, that she must do everything ordered or lose her children for good.

I will reiterate a point I regularly make, mothers are the most discriminated against group of cannabis users with the most to lose.  The cannabis community should focus on helping these women gain back their natural right to mother their children despite their choice to use cannabis.  According to a late 2014 report by the Global Drug Policy Observatory, a European think tank, women aged 30-50 are the key demographic for legalization.  This demographic is also the most likely to be mothers.  The Stoner Cookbook and Elle have made similar statements in recent articles.  If the intent is to use these women to pass cannabis legislation and make money from the cannabis products they buy, shouldn’t the government’s separation of a cannamama and her child be of the utmost concern to the cannabis powers that be?

I argue this is just one more instance of women used for a bigger purpose, but ignored on a class level.  Our help is wanted, but no help is given.  PAY ATTENTION TO US!!!  LISTEN TO THE CRIES OF OUR CHILDREN AS THEY ARE RIPPED FROM OUR ARMS!!!!  Or don’t expect shit from us.  We can do bad by ourselves.

Cannabis refugees are not all medical in nature.  Women are fleeing their homes with their children in the hopes they find a place that will not threaten to take their children because they live in cannamama homes.  Unfortunately, that place does not exist yet.  Some places are better than others, but this frightened and tortured mother is right.  We are in a fight for our freedom, our rights, and our children.

To the woman this happened to, to the women it has happened to, and the women it will happen to: you are not alone.  We are fighting this fight.  We will win.  Don’t let them brainwash you.  Do whatever you have to do to get your children back, but never believe you are a bad mother.  Cannabis use does not make us negligent parents.  We will get through cannabis persecution together.