A large group of mothers gathered on the second floor of the Tavern on Main Street in Richardson. Many of the women, confident and determined, were meeting for the first time to discuss their use of cannabis.
“Moms Talk Cannabis Consumption” was organized by Annie Epley and Sarah Mosely. Epley owns a roofing and construction company and is a member of Queens of Cannabis, a nonprofit organization that looks to unify women in the Texas cannabis industry. Mosely is involved with the Texas Cannabis Collective, a media outlet that brings the latest cannabis news, events and legislative updates from across Texas.
Women are often overlooked in cannabis conversations and marketing (despite shows like Weeds), but they've become a major player in contributing to its growth and legalization through global activism. The stigma that surrounds women (and specifically moms) who use cannabis is one of the reasons Mosely and Epley organized the discussion.
“We felt it was a really important conversation to have and it (hasn’t) happened in Dallas," Mosely says of mothers' cannabis consumption. "No one is talking to specifically women or mothers.”
But it should be unsurprising that mothers would make for a significant percentage of consumers. According to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, 8% of 35- to 44-year-olds used marijuana regularly, though it didn't specify how many of those were parents.
The talk in early July consisted of a panel of well-educated professional women telling their personal stories and experiences, explaining why they choose cannabis over pharmaceuticals. They spoke candidly and answered questions from some of the 30 moms and grandmas in attendance.
Richardson residents Mark and Christy Zartler spoke about going viral in 2017 for a video that showed Mark using a cannabis vapor treatment to help their daughter cope with her severe autism. After the video reached major news outlets, Child Protective Services came knocking at their door.
“(My daughter Cara) was a (cannabis) patient for seven years, and we had tried to advocate," Mark Zartler said at the meeting. "We went public to try and change Texas law.”
Another frequent topic that came up during the chat was how the women felt that cannabis made them better mothers. Seven years ago, Epley was diagnosed with severe pain and stress disorder. She described having to take a boatload of medications that did nothing but sedate her and often make her "feel crazy."
“How do you sedate a single mother?” Epley said. “My child did not have a mother in the span of time that I was on those pills. One day my kid was like 7 years old, and she came to me and said, ‘We got to try something different.’”
From that point on, Epley said she has been able to fight through sickness and live with her disorder without pharmaceuticals. It was her now teenage daughter who, when just a child, helped Epley come to the realization that there were natural alternative forms of medications to be explored.
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The fight between alcohol consumption and parenting was a central point as well, and the casual attitude toward the mixing of alcohol and parenting, while cannabis use is frowned upon. Mosley said, “Moms can drink their wine and have their mommy juice to tone down, but if you even make a joke about lighting up a pre-roll and relaxing when your child is watching TV (while) you’re on the patio, you're ostracized.”
Activist Akila Wienecke, who's a board member of Texas NORML in Austin, grabbed the microphone and said that she is a better mother when she consumes. “I communicate better," she said. "My frustrations, my emotions. I’m much more hyper vigilant when I parent."
Activist and speaker Jessica Pallett said that she views the illegality of cannabis a body ownership tactic from the state, more than anything else. The concept that a government can tell individuals that self-medicating with a plant is illegal does not sit right with her.
“Once you take an approach of taking body ownership (and) the freedom of your medication, it is unlikely that poor parenting or destructive behavior in public is trickling into your daily life," Pallett said. “Cannabis is the gateway to getting your shit together … Never let your fear ruin your morals when it comes to bad laws.”