WILL WEED MOM BE THE NEW WINE MOM?

IS THE POT MOM ABOUT TO RE­PLACE THE WINE MOM? SHARON KIRKEY

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‘And you’re why mommy drinks wine, yes you are, oh yes you are …..”

Oh, those edgy and ubiq­ui­tous wine mom memes, mag­nets and T- shirts, nor­mal­iz­ing moth­er­hood and booze. It’s all seen as good fun — em­pow­er­ing and re­bel­lious, a way for women to chal­lenge the ex­pec­ta­tion that moth­ers should be mod­els of so­bri­ety.

How­ever, for seem­ingly grow­ing num­bers of women, pot, not Pinot, is the new way to lu­bri­cate the stresses of moth­er­hood. Pro­po­nents ar­gue it’s a safer, less in­tox­i­cat­ing and more con­trol­lable re­lax­ant than al­co­hol, which is a de­pres­sant, and al­most as calo­rie-loaded as fat. Women say it can help make them more tuned into their kids. More nur­tur­ing.

Some ob­servers are pre­dict­ing grow­ing le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational mar­i­juana could lead to a fur­ther fem­i­niza­tion of weed — just as emerg­ing re­search sug­gests the fe­male brain is more sus­cep­ti­ble to the re­ward­ing ef­fects of cannabis, and pos­si­bly, a faster tra­jec­tory to de­pen­dence.

For cannabis ad­vo­cate Jessie Gill, weed en­hances her pa­tience, “greatly.”

“It puts you into al­most a med­i­ta­tive, re­flec­tive state. It kind of helps you see your kid’s point of view,” said Gill, who blogs as Mar­i­jua­naMommy. The N. J.- based regis­tered nurse re­luc­tantly be­gan us­ing medic­i­nal cannabis for a work- re­lated, cer­vi­cal spine in­jury that doc­tor- pre­scribed opi­oids couldn’t touch.

“A lot of moms, a lot of women, are start­ing to see that it’s not this dan­ger­ous, scary thing,” Gill said. “The moms who are us­ing cannabis recre­ation­ally tend to be self-med­i­cat­ing for stress — ‘I have so much anx­i­ety at the end of the day, I can’t take it.’ It’s an al­ter­na­tive to wine.”

Women aren’t “zon­ing out” on the couch af­ter school bus pickup or bed­time story time, in­sisted Gill, who re­cently launched The Pretty Pipe shop, cu­ra­tor and ship­per of fe­male- friendly para­pher­na­lia, like pur­ple and gold lace per­co­la­tor bongs and the “lit­tle duck dab­ber.” The Pretty Pipe Shop, like Mar­i­jua­naMommy, is meant to chal­lenge the “stoner” image sur­round­ing cannabis, Gill said.

“When I came out, I was blown away by how many other moms, other women — grand­moth­ers, busi­ness women, doc­tors — would say, ‘ I smoke, I use cannabis oc­ca­sion­ally.”

They’re just not likely to post it on Face­book. Yet.

Some pre­dict the cannabis in­dus­try will take a page out of big al­co­hol’s play­book and its “pink­ing” of booze that be­gan in the late 1990s, with the roll­out of low- calo­rie, ready- to- serve cock­tails and wines with names like “Skin­ny­girl” and “Girls’ Night Out.” This month, the mak­ers of John­nie Walker Black La­bel whisky re­leased a l i mited U. S. edi­tion of “Jane Walker” in sup­port of Women’s His­tory Month, the la­bel fea­tur­ing an hour­glass Jane strid­ing in sexy rid­ing boots, tail­coat and a top hat.

“In or­der to suc­cess­fully mar­ket to women, you need to make it seem like it’s part of the well-bal­anced life — the good, happy life that in­cludes yoga and run­ning,” said Sa­man­tha Bren­nan, a fem­i­nist the­o­rist and bioethi­cist and dean of arts at the Univer­sity of Guelph. “I think lots of th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties are go­ing to be tied to mar­i­juana as a way to get women as cus­tomers.”

But not all push­back against gen­der stereo­types is great for women’s health, she has ar­gued. For ex­am­ple, doc­tors are see­ing a star­tling rise in binge drink­ing among women. In 2013 more than a mil­lion women in the U. S. alone landed in an emer­gency room from heavy drink­ing, ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post anal­y­sis of fed­eral health data. Af­ter Philip Mor­ris launched Vir­ginia Slims at the height of the women’s lib­er­a­tion move­ment (“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!) lung can­cer deaths in women even­tu­ally sur­passed those for breast can­cer.

“Maybe we want to be a bit more re­flec­tive about what we want our lives to look like,” Bren­nan says.

Wo m e n have al­ways smoked and dosed with mar­i­juana, though tra­di­tion­ally at much lower self- re­ported rates than men, said so­ci­ol­o­gist Wendy Chap­kis, coau­thor of Dy­ing to Get High: Mar­i­juana as Medicine. It’s still more a male than fe­male phe­nom­e­non, but the gap is nar­row­ing: Ac­cord­ing to the 2015 Cana­dian Al­co­hol, To­bacco and Drugs Sur­vey, the per­cent­age of women aged 20 to 24 who re­ported us­ing pot in the pre­vi­ous 12 months in­creased six per cent be­tween 2013 and 2015. Among 25- to 44-year-olds it in­creased five per cent.

How­ever, “we didn’t see that same level of in­crease in the 15- to 19 age group,” said Re­becca Jesse­man, di­rec­tor of pol­icy for the Cana­dian Cen­tre on Sub­stance Use and Ad­dic­tion.

“Is there a co­hort ef­fect hap­pen­ing there,” she asked. “Or is it sim­ply that women are start­ing to use at a fre­quency that’s more par­al­lel to men,” much the way more women are drink­ing more like men.

There’s some haze around just how far the in­dus­try will be per­mit­ted to go in pro­mot­ing recre­ational pot. Ot­tawa’s Cannabis Act pro­hibits any­thing aimed at kids and youth, or that’s as­so­ci­ated with “glam­our, recre­ation, ex­cite­ment, vi­tal­ity, risk or dar­ing.” The Coali­tion for Re­spon­si­ble Cannabis Brand­ing, an in­dus­try group, has pro­posed no sex­ual lan­guage or im­agery in the names for strains, though it does want to be able to ad­ver­tise flavour and taste and make “fac­tu­ally based claims” about brand at­tributes.

En­trepreneurs like Jazmin Hupp, co-founder of Women Grow, a pro­fes­sional net­work for women in the le­gal cannabis busi­ness, are al­most evan­gel­i­cal in their en­thu­si­asm. Hupp, born in B.C. to Amer­i­can par­ents, says cannabis pro­vides in­tro­spec­tion, eu- pho­ria, cre­ativ­ity and re­lax­ation, in ad­di­tion to re­lief from phys­i­cal aches and pains.

It also al­lows her to “give less f-- ks,” she said in a Tech Open Air con­fer­ence on her web­site. Granted, cannabis can also cause anx­i­ety, para­noia, hunger and dry mouth, she was care­ful to note.

Bren­nan, for her part, is un­easy with the range of things for which mar­i­juana is be­ing pur­ported to ben­e­fit women, from men­strual cramps and in­som­nia, to weight loss and a bet­ter sex drive. Sim­i­lar prob­lems that were bun­dled to­gether to mar­ket ben­zo­di­azepines — mother’s lit­tle helpers — to women gen­er­a­tions ago.

All of this is a bit wor­ry­ing to Mo­hini Ran­ganathan, a psy­chi­a­trist and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Yale School of Medicine. Stud­ies in rats have long shown sex dif­fer­ences in re­sponse to cannabis, but Ran­ganathan is one of the few look­ing at the acute ef­fects of THC in hu­man fe­males rel­a­tive to men, hop­ing to tease out the mech­a­nisms that may un­der­lie gen­der dif­fer­ences.

In a re­cent study, she ad­min­is­tered in­tra­venous doses of THC — the main con­stituent of cannabis — or placebo to a group of men and women, then asked each to score their high on a scale of zero to 100.

The placebo group ranked their “high” as less than five, and there were no dif­fer­ences be­tween men and women.

With THC, the mean high for men was close to 40. For women, it was 52. “So, close to an 18-to 20-point dif­fer­ence,” Ran­ganathan said.

It’s not clear why. How­ever, in ear­lier work us­ing so­phis­ti­cated PET brain imag­ing, Yale sci­en­tists showed that women have more of a spe­cific kind of cannabi­noid re­cep­tor ( CB1) that’s widely distributed in the brain, com­pared to men.

As le­gal pot be­comes more ac­ces­si­ble and so­cially ac­cept­able, like al­co­hol, and as its po­tency in­creases, “if women truly are more likely to have a more re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with the drug per­haps we will see greater rates of ad­dic­tion,” Ran­ganathan said.

Her find­ing fits with what oth­ers have seen in fe­male rats. In ex­per­i­ments, rats are trained to hit a lever to self­ad­min­is­ter cannabis. The con­trol is usu­ally wa­ter. “You look at how quickly the rats learn, ‘ Hey, if I hit the lever on the left I’m go­ing to keep get­ting the drug,” Ran­ganathan ex­plained. Fe­male rats learn that faster than males.

Af­ter some time, the tap is turned off. The rats keep hit­ting the lever, but no drug. Even­tu­ally they learn to stop. Fe­male rats take longer to stop whack­ing the lever.

When you re­move their ovaries, they be­have more like male rats.

There may be other risks spe­cific to women. Im­por­tantly, heavy cannabis use dur­ing preg­nancy has been linked with higher odds of hav­ing a low birth weight baby. Re­search also sug­gests chil­dren ex­posed to heavy amounts of pots in the womb have i ncreased l evels of hy­per­ac­tiv­ity and im­pul­siv­ity, and higher rates of drug use in their teens, said Dr. Amy Po­rath, di­rec­tor of re­search at the Cana­dian Cen­tre on Sub­stance Use and Ad­dic­tion.

When used fre­quently, and heav­ily, pot might also lead to de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety dis­or­ders, although other re­search has shown a null ef­fect. The men­tal health pic­ture, said Po­rath, “is re­ally a grey area.”

Still, pro­po­nents of recre­ational pot ar­gue it’s a safer form of recre­ation than booze, that it’s not about en­abling “stiletto ston­ers” and that it’s pos­si­ble to par­ent re­spon­si­bly un­der the in­flu­ence of THC.

“It’s not like I’m smok­ing a joint and blow­ing it in my kids’ ear. He’s not my cat in my dorm room,” Amy Cur­ran Zim­mer­man, who makes videos of DIY crafts some­times at­tempted while high, told Splimm, an on­line pot and par­ent­ing news­let­ter.

Yet Splimm co- founder, for­mer Ore­gon ele­men­tary school teacher Jenn Lauder, said the stigma around women and pot is “still so per­sis­tent.

“In a so­ci­ety where pro­hi­bi­tion has been the over­lay that we’ve all ex­pe­ri­enced for so long, it feels il­licit even when it’s le­gal.”

Pot, she says, is wildly ap­peal­ing to some moth­ers. “Once you’ve titrated and fig­ured out your ideal dose, you’re just not in­tox­i­cated the way you would be with al­co­hol.”

“Even if af­ter the kids are in bed and you’re en­joy­ing a lit­tle bit of cannabis and one of the kids wakes up with a night­mare, you’re still go­ing to be equipped to take care of your child. If you’d had those three or four glasses of wine maybe you wouldn’t be.”

Smok­ing doesn’t ap­peal to many women, Lauder said. “It’s smelly, it’s in­con­ve­nient, you’re go­ing to draw at­ten­tion to your­self and your kid is go­ing to no­tice it.” More pop­u­lar are mi­cro-dosed ed­i­bles, teas and tinc­tures.

Bren­nan, of the Univer­sity of Guelph, won­ders if the soft­en­ing of the stigma around women and weed — and the nar­ra­tive that it makes women bet­ter moth­ers — isn’t more about white, sub­ur­ban moth­ers, not women who’ve lost cus­tody of their kids in the past for their drug use.

And it also raises a larger so­cial is­sue around the frus­tra­tions and de­mands of mod­ern moth­er­hood, of jug­gling car­ing for chil­dren and car­ing for el­derly par­ents while work­ing at full- time jobs.

Bren­nan gets the pot- forchronic pain piece.

But, “If you think, “Nat­u­rally I’m stressed out, and grouchy and an­gry and this is go­ing to put me in a bet­ter mood,’ rather than think­ing, ‘ Things here have to change for me to have a rea­son­able life,’ then I’m not so sure.

“I don’t think the an­swer can be have an­other glass of wine, or a joint, and every­thing will be OK.”

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