Dory Patel is a mother of three, a party planner, and a pot user.
“I would never have told anyone, even a year ago, but now I feel like I’m helping other people when I talk about the fact that, yeah, I smoke pot and it doesn’t make me a bad person,” said Patel, who lives in Las Vegas. Her children are ages 13, 10, and 4.
She found pot when her mother began to use it to relieve pain after hip replacement surgery. After a long day of carrying large food platters and setting up tables, the hit of pot helped Patel relax. She traded in nightly glasses of wine for a few hits of marijuana.
“My muscles don’t ache as much,” Patel, 48, said. “I feel healthier. I even started exercising with my kids because I have more energy.”
When she opened up about pot use, Patel braced herself for judgment from friends and family.
“As soon as I said something on Twitter, oh man, I had friends with kids calling me out, saying I wasn’t a responsible mother,” Patel said. “I understand. They are ignorant. But they can’t become educated unless we talk about it, without any shame.”
Then Patel found Herbal Mothers, a Facebook support group for pot-smoking moms in Las Vegas.
“As a mom, much less a mom who smokes, you can feel really isolated,” Patel said. “You get stressed over if you are being a good parent, no matter if you grab a glass of wine or if you smoke [pot]. If you find support, online or in real life, you don’t feel alone. You feel empowered to talk about it and feel okay, more than okay.”
In 2017, Rara Rivera helped found the now-700-member group to create an accepting community for mothers who use marijuana. There are several equivalent groups in cities around the US.
Two years ago, a trip to the corner store would put Rivera into an anxious spiral. Strapping her young son, Maddox, into his car seat brought on debilitating anxiety. After being diagnosed with severe postpartum depression, and a brief dance with Zoloft, Rivera researched natural remedies to bring her back to her former strong self.
“I smoke marijuana to be able to gather my actual thoughts together and live my life with comfort,” Rivera, 25, said. “As a parent, sometimes you just need to relax and be able to put all your focus on your children, even when some things are too stressful and you feel like there's no time to stop what needs to get done.”
For her, Herbal Mothers has been a positive place to find like-minded moms and form social groups via play dates.
“Marijuana is not for everyone, but for the ones who get great benefit from it should be free to use it without any type of judgment,” said Rivera.
The stigma of pot use, however, continues to be a barrier when they discuss it with friends who don’t partake.
“I don't smoke in direct contact with my child, if that's what people assume when they hear marijuana and parents,” said Rivera, who often gets asked about how she explains her pot use to her son, Maddox, age 3. “As he grows older I will definitely not hide the fact that his mom smokes this herb, and will educate him to the fullest on what this all is and the rollercoaster ride it was to get marijuana to where it is now.”
Now that recreational marijuana and weed delivery is legal in 8 states, moms who inhale for chronic pain or for recreation feel more comfortable about discussing the joys of cannabis consumption. This includes the suburbs, where Rivera sees a growing demographic of new pot users.
“Each day I hear about someone changing their life by giving marijuana a chance for something as simple as getting rid of chronic migraines,” said Rivera. “The stigma will slowly change.”
The move to empower rather than shame moms who smoke pot has grown significantly since legalization, said Shanna Williams, a long-time member of Herbal Mothers. She recently left her job as a medical professional to grow her own herb and enter the marijuana industry.
“Since I joined this wonderful group, we have had numerous get-togethers,” said Williams, mother of five. “The wave of legalization of marijuana across the country, for not just medical use but recreational use, has changed views and outlooks for the positive.”
The online pro-pot mom group shares remedies and recipes, arranges play dates and lean on each other when a sense of shame creeps into their lives from those who judge them.
“It helps to have a network of like-minded [women] to have at my fingertips,” said Williams. “We empower each other. And we know the best strains for any occasion.”
Kimberley McGee is a nationally published journalist based in Las Vegas. When she's not chasing down stories, she enjoys finding adventure in the mountains and lakes of the desert Southwest with her 8-year-old twins and husband, Scott. @KimmerMcG on Twitter.