With weed legal in California, more and more people are entering the cannabis industry, and many of those people have kids. Parents in that industry are uniquely positioned to be open with their children about their enthusiasm for weed. It would be difficult to hide what they do for a living.
But it's more than that: Many cannabis-industry parents, along with parents who simply smoke pot, say that weed has helped them become better parents overall, and facilitates a better connection to their children.
According to customer data collected by Eaze, a cannabis tech company and statewide delivery service, one in five cannabis consumers are parents, and 63 percent of those parents consume cannabis daily. A 91 percent majority of those parents smoke or vaporize cannabis flower, the most popular form of cannabis among this demographic, reporting that wellness is a leading reason behind their consumption.
In fact, parents are 52 percent more likely than non-parents to replace alcohol with cannabis, and 26 percent more likely to replace opiates.
For Jason Pinsky, chief cannabis evangelist at Eaze and producer of Viceland's Bong Appétit, framing cannabis not only as a tool for wellness but as a medicine helped him foster a more transparent relationship with his now 11-year-old son. “I wouldn't even compare it to having a drink. For me, cannabis had always been portrayed in our household as a medical product,” Pinsky says. “You know how parents will do something and the kid comes in and they try to sweep it under the rug? Kids pick up on that, so we tried to normalize it.”
In 2000, Pinsky suffered a spinal injury in a motorcycle accident; by the time his son was born, he'd been using opiate painkillers for four years. Not until the boy was about 7 years old did Pinsky have the talk with him. Pinsky had been spending much time in the state capitol, lobbying for medical marijuana in New York, where he then lived. Just after the law passed, in June 2014, his son wrote him a birthday card: In handwritten scrawl, it said, “Dad, happy birthday. I'm proud of the work you've done with cannabis.”
Changing the way kids conceive of cannabis will take a generational shift. “My son is fortunate enough to grow up in a world where he wasn't exposed to D.A.R.E., he didn't have to live through 'Just say no' in the '80s,” Pinsky says. “His understanding is of cannabis, not marijuana. Cannabis is the medical product that got his dad off opiates.”
Nicole Lenz, founder of Earth Healthcare in Westwood, who used medical marijuana to treat an autoimmune disease, says that because cannabis remedied her pain, she was able to be more present to her daughter. “I was a better mom, I was easier and funner to be around,” Lenz says. “She was able to have her mom back to a certain degree when I wasn't suffering, so it brought us closer in that tough time because it alleviated my symptoms.”
Other parents with less severe medical issues use cannabis simply to enhance life and be more conscious. When you're more in touch with yourself, it's easier to be more in touch with those you love. “I find that cannabis really helps me connect with my deeper self, my intuition and my spiritual self,” says Enrico Moses, CEO of High Standards, a cannabis marketing and branding agency. “That's the main way cannabis has helped me foster a better relationship with my children. I've noticed on so many different occasions where cannabis has helped me connect with both my children in a way that I feel is more understanding and more patient, while seeing from their point of view.”
Moses, whose kids are 2 and 13, says cannabis helps him connect with his “inner child” in a way that makes it easier to get into that play world in a more creative, energetic way than he'd otherwise be capable of. By experiencing more common ground with his kids, he says it's easier to empathize — which is especially useful with his youngest, who's still developing a grasp of language.
And by destigmatizing and depathologizing cannabis, he has been able to have more honest conversations about it with his teenage son. “This plant is not what the government has been trying to say it is, so we can look at it more as one of the many things that people choose to consume once they're adults,” Moses says. By presenting cannabis as a choice people make, rather than as the forbidden fruit or a vice you get peer-pressured into trying, he says he aims to talk about it in a way that his son knows it “isn't something you have to do.”
In fact, kids who grew up with weed as something their cool (or more likely, perceived uncool) parents are into may be less drawn to it in general. Rick Cusick, former associate publisher of High Times, editorial director of standardprogress.com and co-founder of Whoopi & Maya, a line of pot-for-PMS products, says his daughter had no interest in cannabis until she was 18. When she finally decided to try it, she told her dad — because he had worked all those years to foster an open, trusting relationship with her.
“Right now we're both enjoying a legalized world, but when she was coming up, I had to tell her to be cool about what I did for a living — 'You can't really talk about it in school,'” he recalls. “At first I didn't want to tell her that, but I realized it provided an extra layer of honesty between us and I didn't want to lie to her.”
The author of in-progress book Reefer Dadness: Wake, Bake and Take Your Kid to the Museum, Cusick says cannabis enhanced most aspects of his life, including parenting. It helped him be more playful, improvisational and childlike. “I used to smoke a joint when my daughter was very small and then pull out the paints. She was a kid and I'm terrible at it, but we had the time of our life, and it would have never happened without marijuana,” he says.
And while Cusick didn't go out of his way to smoke in front of his daughter, he didn't hide it from her either. “I didn't try to make it something extraordinary, I tried to make it normal,” he says. “We wind up apologizing as a reflex, but there's nothing to apologize for. There's nothing wrong with marijuana, and there's nothing wrong with pot and parenting. It enhanced my parenting in ways I couldn't imagine.”